Who Wins and Who Loses in a Hot Housing Market?

Rising home prices aren't just affecting bank accounts, they're affecting mental and physical health. But it's being felt in many different ways.


Since 2010, housing prices have skyrocketed worldwide, sparking widespread concerns about affordability and its far-reaching implications. The surge in home prices isn’t just a financial issue; it’s also a significant public health concern, particularly for those priced out of the housing market.

The connection between housing costs and health is multifaceted. High housing costs can induce chronic stress, leading to mental health issues like anxiety and depression and even physical health problems. Additionally, increased housing prices can cause financial strain, forcing people to cut back on health-promoting activities and essentials such as nutritious food and regular healthcare visits, worsening their overall health.

Despite their evident importance, a systematic review looking at the impact of rising housing prices on health has been lacking — until now. A recent study by Ashmita Grewal, a master’s student from Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, aimed to bridge this gap by investigating how housing market prices affect residents’ health.

This work was published in BMC Public Health.

Twenty-three articles published between 2013 and 2022, covering various regions around the globe, were reviewed. These studies examined the effects of housing prices on mental, physical, and social health over time, using repeated surveys of specific areas.

The findings revealed two main themes. The first, termed “wealth effects,” refers to the positive health outcomes and improved subjective well-being experienced by homeowners in areas with rising house prices. The second theme highlighted the adverse effects on individuals of lower socioeconomic status, including renters and low-income individuals who face negative health impacts from escalating housing costs.

The research also indicated that these effects can vary based on gender, marital status, and education level, underscoring the complex interplay of economic and structural factors.

The reviewed articles suggested several mitigation strategies to combat the negative health consequences of rising housing prices. Governments could provide housing subsidies and support to vulnerable groups and increase access to mental health services in areas affected by housing market volatility.

However, the literature still has significant gaps. Grewal and her colleagues recommend that future studies explore a broader range of mechanisms, including the experiences of young adults and first-time homebuyers, to better understand how housing prices impact health.

Addressing these gaps is crucial for developing effective means to protect individuals’ overall health, especially as the housing market shows no signs of significantly dropping in the near future.

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Alexandria (Alex) Samson is a PhD student in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto. She completed her BSc in Neuroscience from Dalhousie University. Alex is a strong believer in open science and is passionate about making scientific research accessible to all audiences.