Shocking new research has revealed that thousands of people in the West Midlands have suffered a deterioration in their mental health because of housing problems in their lifetime, and many are seeking help from GPs in the area.

The report from Shelter and ComRes shows 28% of people in the West Midlands have experienced issues including long-term stress, anxiety and depression due to a housing problem over their lifetime. In some of the worst cases, people have suicidal thoughts.

The charity is urging anyone overwhelmed by housing problems to get advice from Shelter Birmingham Hub, after 1 in 12 (8%) people in the region said they had visited their GP due to housing problems.

An in-depth investigation by the charity with 20 GPs, including professionals from Birmingham, revealed:

  • GPs say some of their patients diagnosed with anxiety and depression is directly due to housing problems
  • Bad housing is tipping people with existing mental health issues ‘over the edge’
  • Poor housing conditions are having the biggest effect on mental health but unaffordable and unstable rented housing are also having a negative impact
  • GPs feel they need more help in supporting patients experiencing these problems
Showing how linked housing and mental health are, nationally the research shows that a vast majority (69%) of people who have experienced housing problems in the last five years such as poor conditions, struggling to pay the rent or being threatened with eviction, have reported a negative impact on their mental health.

Shelter Birmingham manager, Vicky Hines, said: "Every day at Shelter Birmingham we hear from people who are at their wit’s end because they just can’t cope with their unstable, unliveable or unaffordable housing.

“From families worrying about falling behind on the rent to people struggling with the misery of raising children in tiny, mouldy flats and houses – people can feel completely overwhelmed.

"But getting advice and support early can ease the pressure and stop things spiralling out of control. Shelter’s free expert advice is only a click or conversation away – visit or contact Shelter Birmingham on 0344 515 1800.”

Dr Vijayakar Abrol, who works as a GP in Birmingham and took part in the Shelter study, said: “When housing is sub-standard with inadequate heating, or without proper facilities for bathing, cooking and sleeping, this can have an impact on mental health – especially when it comes to aggravating more fragile people who have existing conditions.

“Personally, I have seen an increase in the number of patients with mental health problems in my practice and growing problems around housing are making the situation worse.”

Anyone struggling with bad housing and homelessness in the West Midlands can contact Shelter Birmingham on 0344 515 1800 or drop into their advice centre at Shelter Birmingham, 4th Floor, Gateway House, 50-53 High Street, Birmingham, B4 7SY.