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Housing Instability Negatively Affects the Health of Children and Caregivers

January 22, 2018

For More Information, Contact:
Jessica Lyons
Office of Communications
617-638-6838
[email protected]

Housing Instability Negatively Affects the Health of Children and Caregivers

New research finds one in three low-income renters face housing instability, at greater risk of poor health and other hardships

(Boston) – Jan. 22, 2018 – When families don’t have stable housing, their risk of struggling with poor health outcomes and material hardships, such as food insecurity, increases, according to a new study from Children’s HealthWatch. Researchers surveyed over 22,000 families and found that one third of low-income renters were housing unstable, which was associated with negative impacts on their health.

To determine housing instability, researchers asked families if they had been behind on rent or moved more than twice in the past year, and if their child had experienced homelessness. All three circumstances were associated with increased odds of adverse health outcomes, such as poor caregiver health, poor child health, maternal depressive symptoms, and food and energy insecurity, when compared to families with stable housing.

“Two-thirds of the families who said they were housing insecure were behind on rent in the past year,” said Megan Sandel, MD, MPH, principal investigator at Children’s HealthWatch and associate director of the GROW Clinic at Boston Medical Center (BMC). “This should be something doctors pay attention to when screening patients for housing instability, as it hasn’t been recognized as a factor in the past.”

The study also explored how multiple unstable housing circumstances affected family health. They found as the number of adverse housing circumstances increased, the odds of child and caregiver health risks also increased. However, there was limited overlap between the three circumstances, with 86 percent of families only experiencing one circumstance.

“Asking questions specific to all three circumstances can help providers asses both individual and community health and housing needs, and identify families who are at risk of poor health associated with housing instability,” added Sandel. “Since there is little overlap in the circumstances, it is vital to assess each circumstance to keep families from slipping through the cracks.” 

Families were surveyed in five urban medical centers in Baltimore, MD, Minneapolis, MN, Boston, MA, Little Rock, AR, and Philadelphia, PA. All of the families were renters and had public health insurance or were uninsured. The study is published online in Pediatrics.

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About Children’s Health Watch
Children’s HealthWatch is a nonpartisan network of pediatricians, public health researchers, and children's health policy experts committed to improving children's health in America by collecting data on children from families facing economic hardship at urban hospitals across the country. Their goal is to inform public policies and practices that give all children equal opportunities for healthy, successful lives.