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  • Mal McCallion

Does renting privately really take weeks off your life?

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Living in a privately rented home is not just about having a roof over your head - it can actually impact your biological ageing, according to a recent study. Researchers from the University of Essex and the University of Adelaide conducted a peer-reviewed study of 1,420 UK householders and found that housing circumstances can "get under the skin" and have significant consequences for health.

The study focused on a process called methylation, which is considered a fundamental mechanism that drives human ageing. The researchers tracked methylation in people who are part of the ongoing UK Household Longitudinal Survey and found that living in a privately rented home is associated with more rapid biological ageing. In fact, the ageing effect of tenure was found to be twice that of obesity and half that of smoking.

The report does go on to make the point that this is very new, in terms of the process of testing, but it is peer-reviewed so enough other health researchers think that it’s got a point. But should that point make us do anything differently?

We all know that renting can be tough when there aren’t enough properties available. It’s also true that divorce is stressful, having a new baby is hard and organising a wedding is a nightmare. The difference is, of course, the relentlessness of the renting difficulty – there is a seemingly-permanent problem with lack of lettings’ stock, driven by a dearth of landlords with a portfolio of suitable properties.

So this is the fix – make more properties available. That could be through reversing some of the recent regulatory changes that have made landlords quit the market – or through encouraging even more Build To Rent property providers to come into the UK.

But this is not news – this has been pointed out as a problem with the above solutions for what feels like decades now. Until it is solved, however, it does seem credible that the current rental market could be causing tenants stress that will limit their lives – and that this deserves attention and action far more quickly than is happening right now.

The study also revealed that falling into arrears repeatedly and exposure to pollution were linked to faster biological ageing. These factors contribute to cumulative damage to the body's tissues and cells, regardless of actual age.

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