Renting makes you age faster according to a new study that found that the negative impacts it can have on your biology are twice that of unemployment. More bad news for millennials who burned their housing deposits on *checks notes* coffees and avocados, but the good news is that the effects are reversible.
The study used data from the representative UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS, usually referred to as Understanding Society) and survey responses from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), to reach its conclusions. It included details pertaining to structural stressors like mold and cold, as well as psychosocial issues like high prices and overcrowding.
This information was then married up to the health records available from survey respondents from whom blood samples were taken for DNA methylation analysis, a measure of biological aging. The study took into account roughly 10 years of housing circumstances for the participants and then analyzed the data.
It revealed that people who were renting were aging faster, with the impact of renting rather than owning a property being twice as damaging as being out of work versus employed. The increased rate of biological aging was also 50 percent greater than the impact of being a former smoker versus a lifelong non-smoker.
Faster biological aging appeared to be particularly prevalent in cases where people had missed rent payments or were living in places that exposed them to pollution and environmental problems. Social housing, on the other hand, was found to be no different from ownership when it came to the rate of biological aging.
“Our results suggest that challenging housing circumstances negatively affect health through faster biological ageing,” concluded the authors in their paper. “However, biological ageing is reversible, highlighting the significant potential for housing policy changes to improve health.”
The study is observational so can’t draw conclusions about causation, but the researchers suggest the key to slowing it all down may be a case of improving the treatment and living conditions of people renting from the private sector.
“What it means to be a private renter is not set in stone but dependent on policy decisions, which to date have prioritised owners and investors over renters,” wrote the authors.
“Policies to reduce the stress and uncertainty associated with private renting, such as ending ‘no-fault’ (Section 21) evictions, limiting rent increases, and improving conditions (some of which have happened in parts of the UK since these data were collected) may go some way to reducing the negative impacts of private renting.”
Over to you, landlords.
The study is published in the Journal of Epidemiology.