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1 in 5 adults suffer mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and panic attacks due to housing pressures

Posted 19 Apr 2017

Shocking new research has today revealed that millions of people in England are suffering a deterioration in their mental health because of housing problems and many are seeking help from their GPs.

The report from Shelter and ComRes shows one in five adults (21%) have experienced issues including long-term stress, anxiety and depression due to a housing problem over the last five years. In some of the worst cases, people are even having suicidal thoughts.

Additionally, one in six adults (17%) say the pressure of housing problems has also affected their physical health with some reporting symptoms such as hair loss, nausea, exhaustion, dizzy spells and headaches.

Showing how linked housing and mental health are, the research shows that a vast majority (69%) of people who have experienced 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.

The charity is urging anyone overwhelmed by housing problems to get advice from Shelter, after an in-depth investigation with 20 GPs revealed many people are having to visit their doctor owing to bad housing. Findings include:

  • GPs say some patients are diagnosed with anxiety and depression directly due 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

Shelter legal adviser Liz Clare said:"Every day at Shelter we hear from people at breaking point because they can no longer cope with their unstable, unliveable or unaffordable housing.

“From families in fear of falling further behind on the rent to people dealing with the misery of raising young children in a tiny, mouldy, freezing flat – people can feel completely overwhelmed.

"But getting advice and support for housing problems early can ease the pressure and stop things spiralling out of control. Shelter’s free expert advice is only a click or conversation away – visit as a starting point or pop into your local Shelter service.”

Case study:When Brenda from Manchester was evicted from her home, she spiralled into a deep depression but things started to turn around when she got legal help from Shelter.

Brenda says: “When I look back on that time, it’s just like a big fog to me. I was chronically depressed and it just felt like all the doors were closing in my face. You blame yourself and you feel a sense of total helplessness. I remember not wanting to go on and wondering if I should end it.

“But when I finally spoke to a Shelter adviser, I just broke down and sobbed because she was the first person who had asked how they could help me. It was the beginning of me taking back some control. I think about that call practically every day. All you need is someone to listen.”

Dr Andrew Carr from London, who took part in the Shelter study, said: "I see how much housing is a problem in my work every day, and it's unusual for people not to have mental health burdens if they're in inadequate or unstable housing.

“With evictions on the rise in my area, I've seen people with acute anxiety or severe stress because they're facing the threat of losing their home. I always encourage patients to seek advice on housing problems as soon as possible, and I have seen first-hand the benefits of this on their mental wellbeing."

Anyone struggling with housing problems can come to Shelter for help at or pop into one of their face to face services across the country. If you need to seek help for a mental health issue please contact Mind or Rethink for support.

Top tips

Shelter legal adviser Liz Clare’s top 5 tips on easing the pressure of housing problems:

  1. Making a start can make all the difference. Whatever the housing pressure, if it’s affecting your mental health, take the first step towards getting help at

  2. If you’re living in a home that isn’t up to scratch, find out what your landlord should do to fix bad conditions

  3. If you’re falling behind on the rent, get advice and help on negotiating on rent arrears

  4. Talk to one of Shelter’s housing advisers straight away if you’re facing eviction

  5. You can get help for mental health issues through charities like Rethink or Mind, or speak to your local GP

Notes to editors:

  • ComRes interviewed 3,509 English adults online between 17th and 23rd February 2017. Data were weighted by age, gender, region and socio-economic grade to be representative of all English adults. Final data tables can be found:

  • ComRes conducted 20 in depth phone interviews with GPs based in urban centres throughout England in January and February 2017. Each of these lasted 30 minutes, and urban centres were chosen to reflect Shelter’s presence in these cities: London (4), Manchester (4), Bristol (3), Sheffield (3), Newcastle (2) and Birmingham (4). ComRes conducted the interviews from 25th January to 9th February 2017. Final report can be found:

  • All calculations scaling to the full English population were carried out by using the latest mid-year population estimates from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). More on the ONS website

Respondents were questioned on types of mental health issues including depression, anxiety and panic attacks. In an open-ended question, where respondents with housing problems were asked to give the most detrimental impact of their housing issue, suicidal thoughts, nausea, hair loss, exhaustion, dizzy spells and headaches were all explicitly referenced by multiple respondents. Please be aware of Samaritans media guidance on reporting suicide and suicidal thoughts