Carolyn Boyd July 03, 2012
Does owning a home make you happy? Not according to new research that looks at Australians' mental health and whether they rent or own where they live.
Although researchers expected to find a link between home ownership and happiness, they discovered quite the opposite.
"Most of the literature says that renters tend to have more characteristics of disadvantage and that they have poorer mental health.
"We looked at that relationship to see if it was renting that caused the lower levels of mental health or if it was something else," said lead researcher Dr Emma Baker from the University of Adelaide. Baker conducted the study in conjunction with researchers from the University of Melbourne.
"We base a lot of policy on the fact that renters have these characteristics, assuming that renting is the cause.
"What we found was that people who rent tend to be people who have lower levels of mental health and that they were poorer and had higher levels of disability to start with.
"Renting is not causal. We found no evidence of a relationship between tenure and mental health in this model."
So, while homeowners tended to have better mental health, it was not actually as a result of owning a home.
"We found that homeowners were the tenure type with the highest mental health scores, followed by private renters," said Baker. "Public renters were the group characterised by the lowest average scores.
"Renting in itself does not make people unhappy ... but higher proportions of unhappy people end up renting because of their circumstances."
The study, called The Mental Health Effects of Housing Tenure: Causal or Compositional?, has been published in the journal Urban Studies. It analysed a data set of 10,000 people over a six-year period.
The researchers acknowledged that their findings challenge a commonly held assumption that whether a person rents or owns a property can impact their mental health.
"If tenure itself does not have a strong causal role in mental health, then this opens the door to the provision of alternative tenures to meet the housing needs of the population.
"The provision of housing is an increasingly important issue for governments and, although policy levers in countries like Australia have tended to focus on home ownership, our work suggests that policies to broaden that focus to include both public and private renting would also be beneficial."
Do you agree with the research? If you are a homeowner, does owning a home make you happy? Or would you be just as happy renting? What is your experience?