It has been shown that the high cost of housing can be detrimental to individual health. However, it is unknown (1) whether high housing costs pose a threat to population health and (2) whether and how social policies moderate the link between housing cost burden and mortality. This study aims to reduce these knowledge gaps.
Country-level panel data from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries are used. Housing cost to income ratio and age-standardised mortality were obtained from the OECD database. Fixed effects models were conducted to estimate the extent to which the housing cost to income ratio was associated with preventable mortality, treatable mortality, and suicides. In order to assess the moderating effects of social and housing policies, different types of social spending per capita as well as housing policies were taken into account.
Housing cost to income ratio was significantly associated with preventable mortality, treatable mortality, and suicide during the post-global financial crisis (2009–2017) but not during the pre-global financial crisis (2000–2008). Social spending on pensions and unemployment benefits decreased the levels of mortality rate associated with housing cost burden. In countries with higher levels of social housing stock, the link between housing cost burden and mortality was attenuated. Similar patterns were examined for countries with rent control.
Our findings suggest that housing cost burden can be related to population health. Future studies should examine the role of protective measures that alleviate health problems caused by housing cost burden.