Unable to pursue homeownership and trapped in a cycle of renting, a growing number of UK renters are so unhappy with their current living situation that it is causing or contributing to feelings of depression, according to newly released research from Wayhome.
Findings from The Reluctant Renters report revealed that of the 4.4m private renters in the UK, 14% - that’s roughly 616,000 people - are so distressed by their living situation they believe it is causing them symptoms of depression. This has increased by more than 50% since before the pandemic (December 2019).
Separately, 13% said renting led them to suffer from anxiety and 12% reported feeling isolated, while 10% are so unhappy with their current living situation that it is causing or contributing to broader mental health issues. This is more than twice as common in renters than homeowners, where only 5% report an impact on their mental health.
With the global pandemic forcing most of the population indoors during lockdown, the toll on people’s mental health has been significant. After months of living and working at home, many have concluded their properties are unsuitable for their long-term needs, and this is having direct ramifications for people’s health and wellbeing. Of those renters who said their living situation had contributed to feelings of depression, anxiety, or isolation, or had caused other mental health issues, one in five (20%) blamed the fixtures and fittings being in poor condition and one in ten (10%) said their home was the wrong size.
But the home itself is not the only issue. A huge number of struggling renters blame the location of their accommodation; 32% said their home wasn’t close enough to their friends and family, 15% don’t feel safe in their local area, and 12% were far from any local amenities.
Crucially, more than a fifth of those renters struggling with mental health (22%) attribute their suffering to feeling insecure in their current accommodation – a figure which is likely to worsen as tenant protections relax and bailiff-enforced evictions ramp back up.
Attributes of renting contributing to poor mental health
More broadly, even renters who are not explicitly struggling with their mental health are less satisfied at home than owners. Almost half (49%) of people who own their house outright are happy with their current living situation and have no issues, slightly more than those with a mortgage who feel the same (40%). This number falls to just 25% of renters.
The key drivers for this dissatisfaction for all renters are their homes being the wrong size. Renters are more than twice as likely to say their home is the wrong size, or they’re dissatisfied with its condition compared to homeowners.
And this situation isn’t likely to change. 24% of renters feel trapped renting, and 22% say they can’t save for a deposit due to their rental payments. Women feel more trapped than men, at 26% versus 21%, and millennials (aged 24-42) feel more trapped than any other generation, at 27%.
With the UK’s housing market sustaining record activity levels for much of this year, a large proportion of homeowners have taken the opportunity to upgrade into properties that better suit their hybrid working needs.
However, Wayhome’s research highlights this freedom of choice is not an option for the UK’s private renters and aspiring first-time buyers. With the ONS reporting homes in the UK now cost around £256,000, inflation spiralling, and mortgage lenders operating with restrictive criteria, homeownership remains an unattainable goal for many.
Nigel Purves, CEO of Wayhome commented: “There are some players in the property market who are ecstatic about the heat of the market over the last year, but they do a disservice to our industry. The UK is facing an affordability crisis, with people trapped in a vicious renting cycle.
“Our research has brought to light just what can happen to those who are continually priced out of homeownership, with cases of depression on the rise and people feeling isolated and anxious. In some instances, people are even putting major life plans on hold until they’re in a home worthy of their family. It’s not good enough. Homeownership should be accessible for everyone.
“It is clear innovation is vital, which is why we’re offering a new solution. We’re helping those disenfranchised by restrictive lending rules, those who don’t have access to the bank of mum and dad. We want to see more “reluctant renters” become the homeowners they truly deserve to be, and we’re committed to making that happen.”
Dr Linda Papadopoulos, Chartered Psychologist, offered her insight: “Feeling trapped in your own home is a difficult feeling to contend with from an emotional wellbeing perspective. While the pandemic has triggered a multitude of mental health-related crises – this feeling of being unable to break free from the cycle of renting was clearly in existence for some time before the pandemic took hold.”
“Feeling unable to pursue major life goals, gain ‘proper’ independence or feel accomplished by our achievements can all have a damaging effect. It is not therefore surprising that the mental health of ‘reluctant renters’ can be affected.”