Housing and mental health

Housing and mental health are closely linked. People with mental health conditions are more likely to live in poor housing and having housing problems can make your mental health worse.

*Date updated: 24 September 2021

Good quality, affordable and safe housing is a vital part of good mental health. Our home shouldn’t just be a roof over our head, but also a safe, supportive place to live.

Poor housing – with damp and mould problems, antisocial neighbours, uncertain tenancies or overcrowded conditions, for example – can make our mental health problems worse.

One in five of us has experienced mental health issues because of housing problems, according to a report by Shelter. Compared with the general population, people with mental health conditions are:

  • one and a half times more likely to live in rented housing
  • twice as likely to be unhappy with their home
  • four times as likely to say that it makes their health worse.

How can housing problems affect my mental health?

Poor housing can affect our mental health in lots of different ways. The links below will give you more information on how to manage these difficulties.

Stress, anxiety and depression

If you’re living somewhere unsafe or worried about how to pay your rent or mortgage, you may feel stressed, anxious or depressed.

Sleep problems

An overcrowded home, antisocial behaviour and stress or worry can all keep you awake at night. Sleep problems can affect your mental health.

Physical health problems

If you don’t have access to cooking facilities, it can be hard to eat well. Living in a home with mould and damp can affect your physical health, which in turn can affect your mental health.

Relationship difficulties

Stress and overcrowding can cause arguments with your partner, family or housemates. A relationship breakdown can lead to further housing problems. Shelter has information about your legal rights to housing when a relationship ends.

If your housing problems have affected your mental or physical health, speak to your doctor. Our page on getting help has suggestions on other ways to get support, such as helplines, self-help and peer support.

What can I do about housing problems?

If you need help with housing problems, there are places you can go for advice. Don’t feel you have to sort things out on your own.

  • Speak to your local council for help or advice.
  • Talk to a specialist organisation such as Shelter, Citizens Advice or one of the organisations listed in ‘useful resources and information’ below.
  • If your mental health condition means you find it difficult to look after yourself, ask your local social services department for a care needs assessment. For example, if you’re severely depressed, you might not have the motivation to get dressed, cook or clean your home. Mind has more information about care needs assessments.

If you’re homeless or at risk of being made homeless:

  • ask your local council for help. They must help you either keep your home or find somewhere else to live
  • Shelter has a list of places you can contact if you need somewhere to stay in an emergency,
  • contact Streetlink if you’re sleeping on the streets. Shelter has a list of practical ways to get help too.

Remember that you have housing rights, whether you’re a tenant or homeowner. Mind has more information on your rights and how to assert them.

Finding suitable housing if you have a mental health problem

If your mental health condition means you need extra support to live independently, ask your council for a care needs assessment. You may be eligible for help at home or a place in supported housing. You may have to pay for these, depending on your income and savings.

There are many different housing options available. Not all of these are available in all areas. Ask your local council or community mental health team about your options.

  • Supported housing. This is a scheme where housing, care and support are provided as a package. There are different types of supported housing depending on how much help you need. Rethink has more information, including how to apply and pay for it. Rethink also runs supported housing services in some areas of England.
  • Shared Lives. You live with a Shared Lives carer and their family, who give you extra care and support. You can live with them short-term or long-term. Shared Lives carers are all assessed and monitored by their local council.
  • Therapeutic communities. These are places where people with long-term mental health conditions can stay for weeks or months. You can learn from and support other residents.
  • Crisis houses. They offer intensive short-term help as an alternative to going into hospital or following a hospital stay. You’ll usually need to be referred by a mental health professional. 

If you were detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act (‘sectioned’), you may be entitled to free aftercare when you’re discharged. This can include supported housing. Talk to your care coordinator or anyone in your care team about this.

Useful resources and information

Centrepoint provides advice to anyone aged 16-25 who is homeless or at risk.

Citizens Advice provides free help and advice on a range of subjects including housing. They also have advice specific to Wales and Scotland.

Crisis helps homeless people rebuild their lives through support, advice and courses.

Housing Advice NI provides free housing advice and information to people in Northern Ireland.

Shelter provides free, confidential advice about housing problems. In Wales, contact Shelter Cymru and in Scotland, contact Shelter Scotland.

Stonewall Housing offers specialist housing advice to LGBTQ+ people.

Streetlink connects people sleeping rough with local services.