Housing and mental health

Housing is a fundamentally key factor in people's mental health. People with housing problems are at greater risk of mental health problems.

Good-quality, affordable and safe housing is a vital component in good mental health, as well as supporting those with existing mental health conditions.

Research shows that those who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, are much more likely to experience mental distress and a significant number do not access the support they need.

Compared with the general population, people with mental health conditions are:

  • one and a half times more likely to live in rented housing
  • more likely to experience instability with regards to tenancy agreements 
  • twice as likely as those without mental health problems to be unhappy with their housing
  • four times as likely to say that it makes their health worse.

What kind of housing support is available?

The experience of mental ill health is different for each individual, and mental health problems can occur at any point in our lives. As a consequence of these diverse needs, housing solutions for people with mental health problems must be equally diverse. This requires taking account of the different type of support that people need, and how that changes over time.

The Mental Health Foundation has published a report Mental Health and Housing which identifies five successful approaches to supported accommodation:

  1. Care support plus: high-level integrated support.
  2. Housing support for people who have experienced homelessness.
  3. Support for those with complex needs.
  4. Low-level step-down accommodation.
  5. Mental health and housing in later life.

Mental health and homelessness

In 2015, 32% of single homeless people reported a mental health problem, and depression rates, for example, are over ten times higher in the homeless population. There are numerous factors which can lead to a person becoming homeless, many of which are beyond individual control, such as lack of affordable housing, disability, and poverty.

There is a two-way relationship between homelessness and mental health. Having a mental health problem can create the circumstances which cause a person to become homeless in the first place, but it’s also true that poor housing or homelessness can increase the chances of developing a mental health problem, or exacerbate an existing condition. Homelessness can be an obstacle to recovery, making it difficult to develop good mental health, to secure stable housing, to find and maintain a job, to stay physically healthy and to maintain healthy relationships.

Homelessness is a public health issue, and targeted prevention focused on this at-risk group is crucial. 

Increased investment should be directed into research, design and training for psychologically informed environments, so staff who work with homeless individuals in shelters, hostels or health services are aware of their emotional and psychological needs, wellbeing and put their safety first. The Mental Health Foundation released a report on psychologically informed environments in 2016 that discusses this in more detail.