Renting a home ages you faster than smoking or unemployment, study finds


People who rent their home as opposed to owning outright age faster than those experiencing unemployment or who’ve previously smoked, according to a new study by Australian researchers that looked at the stress of renting in British adults.
Vacancy Rate For U.S. Apartments Reaches Highest Rate In 20 Years

A sign advertising apartments for rent is displayed in front of an apartment complex in San Francisco, California.

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Key Takeaways
  • The stress of renting—including factors like not having the money to pay rent, being exposed to environmental hazards at a rental property, the hassle of moving and the stigma of renting—causes biological aging at a rate of 100% more than unemployment and 50% more than smoking, the researchers found, and has “real and significant consequences for health.”
  • Impacts like increased risk of chronic illness and death are associated with the faster biological aging brought on by renting, but researchers said those impacts aren’t guaranteed to last forever, writing that “housing policy changes can improve health” and reverse the harm done.
  • Past research has found the physical conditions of housing, like overcrowding or inadequate heating, had an obvious impact, but there are also non-tangible factors that impact health like relative affordability and security, according to the study published in The British Medical Journal’s Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
  • Researchers relied on data from the U.K. Household Longitudinal Study as well as blood samples from nearly 1,500 participants to gather information on aging biomarkers, and also factored in data on sex, nationality, education level, wealth, diet, stress levels, body mass index and smoking.
  • The study suggested more favorable policies toward renters—like ending “no fault” evictions, limiting rent increases and improving housing conditions—could slow the biological aging brought on by renting.

While renting was found to accelerate aging over those who own their homes, there was one exception: Subsidized housing. Those who have their rent subsidized by the government did not experience the acceleration of biological aging like those who privately rent.

Big Number

Two and half weeks. That’s how much renters have added to their biological age each year when compared to those who own, the study suggests.


An April study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association said poverty is the fourth-leading risk factor for death among Americans behind heart disease, cancer and smoking. Nearly 300,000 people died of risk factors associated with 10 or more years of cumulative poverty in 2019, researchers found, and even experiencing poverty for a single year increases mortality risk more than strokes, Alzheimer’s disease or diabetes.

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