Rising housing prices are impacting our health, study finds

CHEK

A new study has found that the structures we live in actually determine our health. Maybe unsurprisingly, low income individuals and renters have it worst.

“People’s emotions, their views of how safe and stable their homes are, gets internalized. It gets under your skin,” said Kiffer Card, an Simon Fraser University social scientist who co-authored the study. “If people are stressed about their living situation it creates a lot of wear and tear on your body so you really see heightened risk for heart disease, for cancer.”

In the past five years, housing prices have risen at an alarming rate. Card says that’s significantly impacting our health.

“There’s these inequitable distribution of health effects that is really important for policy makers to consider right now,” said Card.

As the cost of homes rise, the report found that home owners see a boost to their well-being. Low income individuals and renters on the other hand, hurt.

“Personally, not being able to pay rent, hydro and grocers, it does take a toll on you,” said Nickayla Threlfall who rents in Victoria. “It feels really hopeless.”

For renters, the higher housing costs are more likely to cause chronic stress and limit people’s ability to put money towards thing that help their health, like food. A study out of Dalhousie found that nearly 50 per cent of Canadians are prioritizing food costs over nutrition.

That compromised nutrition combined with the reality of less access to health care, means a diminished ability to manage chronic conditions.

“What are you even supposed to do when you get sick or you get hurt? There’s nothing,” said Threlfall.

Card says direct government support and housing subsidies offer a buffer, but only if they’re available.

“When there’s a good government support and a good safety net…if you fall on hard times, that really reduces the negatives impact of the stress and this worry,” said Card.

For now, the lack of housing built over the past 30 years will have costs, not only economically, but also health-wise, unless further interventions are put in place.

Kori Sidaway

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