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Housing Instability and Health: Findings from the Michigan Recession and Recovery Study

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionBurgard, Sarah, Kristin Seefeldt, and Sarah W. Zelner. 2012. "Housing Instability and Health: Findings from the Michigan Recession and Recovery Study." PSC Research Report No. 12-749. January 2012.

The recession of the late 2000s has increased interest in the consequences of housing instability. Previous research has shown poorer health among those experiencing housing instability, but extant studies generally have focused on selected populations (e.g., homeowners or renters) or studied only one type of housing instability (e.g. homelessness). Using new data from the Michigan Recession and Recovery Study, a population-based sample of working-aged adults from Southeastern Michigan in late 2009-early 2010, we found that about one-third of respondents recently experienced some type of housing instability. Many, but not all types of instability were associated with health.

Even after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics and earlier health, individuals who had moved for cost reasons in the past three years were more likely than those with no housing instability to report a recent anxiety attack, while those who experienced homelessness in the past year had a higher likelihood of reporting fair/poor self-rated health and of meeting criteria for major or minor depression. Renters who were behind on rental payments were more likely to meet criteria for depression, while mortgage-holders who were behind on their mortgage or in foreclosure had a higher likelihood of reporting fair/poor self-rated health or a recent anxiety attack. Among respondents who had ever owned a home, those who completed a foreclosure recently were more likely to report an anxiety attack. However, frequent moves were not associated with poorer health, and doubling up and eviction were not associated with poorer health after adjustment for characteristics that sort people into different housing instability experiences.

Our findings suggest the importance of distinguishing different types of housing instability and using appropriate risk groups and comparison categories, as well as considering whether some individuals are experiencing a cascade of housing problems when studying links between discrete types of instability and health.

Country of focus: United States of America.

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