Quality of housing affects mental health of young people

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A new study examines the emotional and educational prices children pay when their families live in run-down apartments and homes.

Data taken from a six-year study of 2,400 children of all ages found that emotional and behavioral symptoms such as anxiety, depression, lying and aggressive behavior are closely connected to poor housing quality and the stress found in their families.

Environmental stress

The run-down homes were plagued by leaky roofs, broken windows, peeling paint, debris and vermin. Children growing up in these conditions experience greater emotional and behavioral problems at young ages and later see their school performance suffer.

“Through no fault of their own, children and teens whose families live in substandard housing are paying a steep price in terms of their emotional and behavioral well-being,” said Boston College Professor of Education Rebekah Levine Coley. “That carries on into school and creates deficits that are extremely difficult to overcome.”

“A big takeaway is that many of these links function in part through parenting and parental stress,” said Coley. “We know that environmental stress can come not just from outside the home, but from the home itself when we consider the impact of living day-to-day with exposed wiring, peeling paint, rodents, poor sanitation and a lack of natural light, or with frequent moves from home to home.”

Quality of the home

According to the study, many families struggled with the affordability of the home, but this factor had little impact. Living in an owned home, a rented apartment or government-funded housing made no difference. Issues of quality and stability created the stress for young people.

“There’s such a tremendous amount of attention paid to affordability and that’s a critical issue for low-income families,” said Coley. “What our findings suggest is that housing quality may be more important when we are concerned with the growth and development of children. The data suggest policymakers make housing quality a priority as they work to resolve the housing crisis facing low-income families.”

Source: Developmental Psychology, MedicalNewsToday

 
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