Health impact of home ills

editorial image

Hundreds of Wigan people have suffered a deterioration in their mental health because of housing problems, and many are seeking help from GPs.

A shock report from homelessness charity Shelter and ComRes shows a massive 28 per cent of people in the North West have experienced issues including long-term stress, anxiety and depression due to a housing problem over their lifetime. In the worst cases, people have harboured suicidal thoughts.

The charity is urging anyone overwhelmed by housing problems to get advice from Shelter, after one in 17 people in the region said they had visited their GP due to housing problems. The survey of 20 GPs revealed:

Some patients’ anxiety and depression diagnoses are directly attributable 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.

Showing how linked housing and mental health are, nationally the research concludes that 69 per cent of people with 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.

Shelter spokesman John Ryan said: “Every day we hear from people who are at their wits’ end because they just can’t cope with their unstable, unliveable or unaffordable housing. From families worrying about falling behind on the rent to people struggling with the misery of raising children in a tiny, mouldy flat – people can feel completely overwhelmed.”

Local GP Dr Brian Perkins said: “Patients frequently complain to me about their poor quality housing. I’ve seen the damp and mouldy interiors of some patients’ homes, and they are really quite unpleasant and not conducive to a happy family home environment. It’s a vicious cycle: when someone’s housing situation is poor, it can create mental health issues which then make it harder to pay the rent, and so the root causes persist.”