Quarter of private renters experience sickness over housing worries—but we don’t know if private renting is the cause

21st Jan 2020

Claim

Private renting is making millions of people ill.

Conclusion

A survey found almost a quarter of private renters agree that housing worries have made them ill in the past year. This doesn’t mean the sickness was specifically caused by renting privately as opposed to any other type of housing situation.

“Private renting is making millions of people ill with almost half of England’s 8.5 million renters experiencing stress or anxiety and a quarter made physically sick as a result of their housing, campaigners have said.”

The Guardian, 15 January 2020

Various outlets have reported that almost one in four private renters in England agreed that housing problems had made them ill in the past year.

The figures were collected in a survey by housing charity Shelter.

The survey asked: “To what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements? Housing problems or worries (e.g. affording the rent, poor conditions, losing my tenancy etc.) have made me feel physically ill/sick in the last year.”

10% of the private renters surveyed strongly agreed and another 13% answered “tend to agree”, meaning around a quarter agreed to some extent.

The Guardian headlined its piece “Private renting making millions sick in England, poll shows.”

This suggests a causal link specifically between renting privately (as opposed to renting from the council or some other housing situation) and feeling physically ill or sick. This isn’t evidenced in the survey. Sickness could have been caused by housing concerns not specific to renting privately, as the researchers didn’t ask, for example, people who owned their houses, or rent from the council, if they had experienced similar feelings.

Also, because the study didn’t survey homeowners or social renters, we can’t tell whether housing-related illness is more or less of an issue among private renters.