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New international research suggests that renting can lead to almost double the rate of biological aging compared to unemployment, as reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The study reveals a connection between residing in a privately rented home and accelerated “biological aging” in contrast to homeowners or social housing occupants. Shockingly, renters appear to age nearly twice as fast as individuals who are unemployed or former smokers.

Dr. Amy Clair, the study’s author, acknowledges that while the findings might not be entirely surprising, the extent of renting’s adverse health impact surpasses that of unemployment or smoking. This underscores the considerable stress associated with renting. She emphasizes the significance of this stress by pointing out that it is discernible in people’s epigenetic profiles. Epigenetic profiles indicate how environmental factors can influence a person’s genetic expression, affecting their overall nature.

To reach these conclusions, researchers from the University of Essex and the University of Adelaide analyzed a decade’s worth of data from a representative UK Household Longitudinal Study. They examined blood samples from 1,420 participants and gathered information about their housing situation, including tenure, building type, available financial support for renters, housing quality, and various psychosocial elements like housing costs, payment arrears, and overcrowding.

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While the study focused on the UK, its relevance extends to most English-speaking countries, including New Zealand, where 1.4 million people rent their homes, according to Stats NZ.

Geordie Rogers, the president of Renters’ United, notes that the study aligns with similar research from the University of Otago, highlighting how cold homes can adversely affect children’s health. However, Rogers finds the findings about social housing particularly poignant, emphasizing the importance of secure tenure as a public health response and an economic booster.

Dr. Clair echoes this sentiment, advocating for a shift toward more secure tenancy arrangements for private renters, citing examples from countries like Scotland and Germany. She points out that the study’s silver lining is that the negative health effects associated with renting can be mitigated through strong housing policies.

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The study’s implications emphasize the need for positive changes in housing policy to enhance public health and well-being, challenging the perception that insecurity is an inherent aspect of private renting.

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