From housing wealth to well-being?



Publication Details

Searle, B. A., Smith, S. J. & Cook, N. (2009). From housing wealth to well-being?. Sociology of Health and Illness: a journal of medical sociology, 31 (1), 112-127.


The positive health effects of owner-occupation, compared to renting, are well documented. But home ownership is itself heterogeneous, as is the health profile of its incumbents, and this is less well recognised. Drawing from a mixed-methods study, which includes 150 qualitative interviews with a cross-section of UK mortgage holders, this paper examines the health implications of a definitive feature of owned housing: its role as a financial tool. In particular, we ask whether there is anything about the process of accumulating wealth into housing or spending from this resource, that enhances well-being (or that adds to psycho-social stress). This question is timely, coming at the end of a long-wave of house-price appreciation, in a setting where it is easy to borrow from housing wealth, under a policy regime that looks increasingly to owned homes as an asset base for welfare. The answer casts light on whether, in what circumstances, to what extent, and by what mechanism, home ownership - the dominant housing tenure of the English-speaking world - might enhance the well-being of individuals, communities and societies.

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