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Housing insecurity in childhood linked to poorer health outcomes in teenagers, recent study finds

Tents line the street in Oregon, US.
Tents line the street in Oregon, US. Copyright Craig Mitchelldyer/AP Photo, File
Copyright Craig Mitchelldyer/AP Photo, File
By Imane El Atillah
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A recent study found that housing insecurity during childhood leads to long-term adverse health outcomes.


Housing insecurity is on the rise as the cost of housing increases, homelessness grows, and the availability of decent housing decreases worldwide.

Recent research published in the journal Pediatrics found that housing insecurity impacts children’s well-being into their teenage years.

Teenagers who experienced some degree of housing insecurity in their childhood were found to be more likely to have adverse health outcomes.

The research was based on data from the Future of Families and Child Wellbeing (FFCWB) study, which followed children from age one through adolescence.

The study examined whether there is a link between long-term housing insecurity and teenagers’ health.

Housing insecurity was defined based on several factors, such as difficulties paying rent or mortgage, overcrowding by sharing housing with other families, facing eviction, and spending time in places not meant for residence, such as a car or an abandoned building.

To understand the effects of these conditions on children’s health, the researchers measured symptoms of depression and anxiety and self-reported overall health (SRH).

Nearly 5,000 participants were enrolled in the study at birth across 20 US cities.

The study found that children who experienced any level of housing insecurity at some point in their lives registered worse overall health and mental health compared to those who had stable housing conditions.

Adolescents with the highest housing insecurity reported more anxiety and depressive symptoms.

The housing crisis remains a growing concern globally.

“The world is grappling with a situation where more and more people are unable to afford their housing costs,” Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said in a statement last year.

“Millions lack the financial means to access safe, secure and habitable housing,” he added.

A 2014 report by the McKinsey Global Institute predicted that at least 1.6 billion people are expected to be affected by a global housing shortage by 2025.

This shortage, along with the soaring housing costs reported post-pandemic, could force many to opt for crowded, inadequate, and unsafe housing options, which may put many young people at risk of declining health.

“Housing insecurity is preventable and addressable through policy and public health intervention,” the study authors wrote.

“Future work is needed to validate a universal measure for housing insecurity and implement screening and referral procedures for families with young children to appropriate services”.

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