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  • In 2021, 24% of people living in overcrowded housing indicated that they had experienced psychological distress, compared to 22% living in non-overcrowded housing. The difference was more pronounced in previous years.
  • The pandemic has had a negative effect on people’s mental health and more people reported experiencing poor mental health.

Living in an overcrowded home tends to be associated with worse mental health. 

This chart shows the proportion of people experiencing psychological distress between 2018 and 2021, stating whether they lived in an overcrowded household or not.

The pandemic has had a negative effect on people’s mental health and more people reported experiencing poor mental health.

  • In 2020, people in overcrowded households were 4 percentage points more likely to experience psychological distress than people living in non-overcrowded households. 
  • In 2021, the difference between the two decreased to 1.9 percentage points. This change was primarily driven by an increase in people experiencing psychological distress in non-overcrowded households. This increase may have been caused by the pandemic and its effects, which may have involved loss of jobs, sickness in loved ones, and the stress associated with home-schooling.

Overcrowding tends to be associated with worse mental health and some of the effects became more pronounced during the pandemic. The proportion of overcrowded households in England has grown over the past decade, particularly in the social and private rented sector, and there has been little policy action in response.

  • The GHQ-12 assessment tool is a recognised indication of a person’s mental health. It includes 12 questions relating to mood dysfunction, social dysfunction and loss of confidence. Each question has a four-point response scale. Where a question is answered as being worse or much worse than usual, they are given a score of one. Those scoring an overall score of four or more across the 12 questions are classed as indicating psychological distress.
  • Overcrowding in this context is measured by comparing the number of people in the household against the total number of rooms in the household. We have used this measure due to limitations in the data. It differs from other measures of overcrowding that account for the age and sex of children and the relationship status of adults to calculate a household’s bedroom requirement. 

Source: Understanding Society, The UK Household Longitudinal Study

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