High Rents Equals High Stress & Worsening Health

Is your rent increase actually killing you? The stress of renting is bad for your health. Like you didn’t know that.

By Jeff Vasishta September 7, 2016
Photo courtesy of

There are few things more stressful than not knowing how you’re gonna pay the rent. Hypertension and asthma rates are increasing as residents around the country grapple with growing rents and lack of stability. The associated stress is shown to cause depression, anxiety and even schizophrenia, according to studies by the Health Department and the Oakland research firm PolicyLink Center for Infrastructure Equity.

The effect is felt most deeply in rapidly gentrifying areas. Oakland in California is one such neighborhood and now, studies have been conducted there to show just how stressful, from a public health perspective, increasing rents can be. Dr. Muntu Davis, head of the Alameda County Public Health Department, held a press conference on September 2nd at Oakland City Hall to address the issue.

Related: As Jackson Heights Takes The Baton From Brooklyn, Gentrification Is Off At A Winning Pace

According to Curbed, in 2015, renters saw an 8.3 percent jump in L.A. County, a 4.5 percent rise in San Francisco, and double-digit increases across many of the country’s most desirable neighborhoods. An unaffordable increase considering wages have been stagnant for the last decade. Compounding the issue are the nine million Americans who became new renters, the largest 10-year gain in history. Millennials are amongst the hardest hit. For the first time in modern history, most 18-34-year-olds live at home with their parents, according to the Pew Research Center. It’s a compound effect, because at a time when parents thought they could downsize and retire they’re still subsidizing their children. In Oakland if millennials want to move out of their parents homes it’s not uncommon for them to pay 80 percent of their income on rent and to share with five roommates.

Like parts of Brooklyn in Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights and Bushwick, Oakland lost a substantial number of its African American population between 2010-2015 (20 percent) and for those remaining, the stress of high rent is having a discernible effect.

“The more you can’t afford things, the more stresses you have, and those stresses increase your blood pressure,” Dr. Davis said. As a result, he added, Oakland is seeing an uptick in emergency-room visits for many of these health conditions. The fear of eviction also causes residents not to report potentially harmful issues in their apartments such as mold and pests.

The US is not the only country where the stress of high rent is causing tenants health related side effects. The Independent newspaper reported that in the UK more than a million Britons have had to see their doctor due to the stress of keeping a roof over their heads, according to new research by Shelter, the homeless charity. The report also stated that stress has manifested itself in tenants and homeowners not being able to sleep at night or arguing with their partners because of their inability to pay their rent or mortgage. The study showed that a striking 54 percent of people in England are struggling or falling behind in their rent or mortgage payments.


Satirical newspaper the Onion attempted to cast a humorous light on the absurdity of the rental increases in an article titled, “Apartment Broker Recommends Brooklyn Residents Spend No More Than 150% Of Income On Rent”.  Although the US may not yet be in a state where shanty towns exist outside major cities as in India and China, increasing rent is having some alarming effects. In Mountain View, California, home of Google and the much of Silicon Valley, even earning $100,000 a year hardly cuts it in a city where the cost to rent a single family home is over $4000/month, there are around 130 people now sleeping in their cars or RV’s , some of them even have decent tech jobs.

As recent data and census reports show, for many the stress of trying to make ends meet in the city in which they were raised and call home is no longer worth it. Gentrification is changing the complexion and diversity of major cities such as New York and San Francisco. It may make you wonder if the constant upward growth of the real estate market has its cost.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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