What Role Does Housing Play in Your Health?

December 20, 2021

Whether you rent or own your home, where you live plays an essential role in your life. A recent study conducted by Freddie Mac suggests that housing may affect physical and mental health.

Couple discussing finances

In a national online study of more than 2,000 renters and homeowners, 84% reported they believe housing influences their physical health and 83% believe housing influences their stress levels.

But what elements of housing most affect your health? And what can do you about it?

How Housing Payments Could Play a Role in Your Health

When it comes to housing, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to determine how much you should spend per month. Renters and homeowners are commonly cautioned not to spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing, based on a 1969 amendment to public housing requirements, but that recommendation may not be as easy to abide by 50 years later.

According to the survey, 64% of renters and 48% of homeowners do spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing.

The more you spend on your monthly rent or mortgage payment, the less money you have for bills and other necessities, such as food or medications. Making those decisions each month can be stressful, and not being able to afford the basics can take a toll on physical health. In addition, greater financial stress is linked to a greater likelihood of depression, anxiety or other mental disorder.

Americans believe housing affects their health

Nearly 70% of survey respondents reported they had trouble affording their monthly rent or mortgage payment over the past five years. If you’re having trouble paying for your home, what can you do?

Start by making a budget to get a big picture, long-term view of how you’re spending your money. Consider using a budget worksheet. Once you understand your spending habits, you can make adjustments to reach your financial goals. You may want to:

  • Spend less on non-essentials. Are there purchases you can live without that will allow you to afford the essentials or save more?
  • Reduce other debts. To reduce your recurring monthly costs, you may be able to refinance your auto or student loan or transfer the balance from one credit card to another to reduce your payment.
  • Consider downsizing or renegotiating your lease. Are there less expensive housing options in your desired area? Can you work with your landlord to extend your lease for a longer term at a fixed rate?
  • Shop around to reduce major monthly expenses. Can you lower your cellphone, internet or utility bills?

How the Features of Your Home Could Play a Role in Your Health

In addition to their housing costs, survey respondents believe that certain home features within their homes affect their physical and mental health, including the following:

  • Ventilation and air quality.
  • The look and feel of the home.
  • Privacy levels.
  • Water quality.
  • Water quality.
  • Outdoor living space.
  • Windows and natural light.

Before renting or buying a home, take stock of each of these elements and consider how important it is to you. If you’re renting, you may be able to encourage the property manager to upgrade certain utilities. If you are buying a home, you can make changes to as you see fit.

For pricier upgrades, such as adding outdoor living space or replacing windows, you may need additional financing. Speak with a lender about loan options you are eligible for and which best suits your needs.

To learn more about affordable strategies for renting and homebuying, visit My Home by Freddie Mac®.