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Housing crisis is damaging people’s mental health, claims Shelter

The housing crisis is taking a terrible toll on people’s mental health, with one-in-five people experiencing anxiety, depression or panic attacks, according to new research from the charity Shelter.

According to the research, millions of people are suffering a deterioration in mental health because of housing problems, and many are seeking help from their GPs – adding to the pressures faced by a hard-pressed health service.

The report from Shelter and ComRes shows (21%) of adults have experienced issues including long-term stress, anxiety and depression due to a housing problem over the last five years. In some of the worst cases, people are even having suicidal thoughts.

Additionally, one in six adults (17%) say the pressure of housing problems has also affected their physical health with some reporting symptoms such as hair loss, nausea, exhaustion, dizzy spells and headaches.

Showing how linked housing and mental health are, the research shows that a vast majority (69%) of people who have experienced housing problems in the last five years such as poor conditions, struggling to pay the rent or being threatened with eviction, have reported a negative impact on their mental health.

The charity is urging anyone overwhelmed by housing problems to get advice from Shelter, after an in-depth investigation with 20 GPs revealed many people are having to visit their doctor owing to bad housing. Findings include:

  • GPs say some patients are diagnosed with anxiety and depression directly due to housing problems

·        Bad housing is tipping people with existing mental health issues ‘over the edge’

  • Poor housing conditions are having the biggest effect on mental health but unaffordable and unstable rented housing are also having a negative impact
  • GPs feel they need more help in supporting patients experiencing these problems

"Every day at Shelter we hear from people at breaking point because they can no longer cope with their unstable, unliveable or unaffordable housing,” said Liz Clare, legal adviser with Shelter.

“From families in fear of falling further behind on the rent to people dealing with the misery of raising young children in a tiny, mouldy, freezing flat – people can feel completely overwhelmed.

"But getting advice and support for housing problems early can ease the pressure and stop things spiralling out of control.

Dr Andrew Carr from London, who took part in the Shelter study, added: “I see how much housing is a problem in my work every day, and it's unusual for people not to have mental health burdens if they're in inadequate or unstable housing.

“With evictions on the rise in my area, I've seen people with acute anxiety or severe stress because they're facing the threat of losing their home. I always encourage patients to seek advice on housing problems as soon as possible, and I have seen first-hand the benefits of this on their mental wellbeing."

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