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Eviction From Rental Housing and Its Links to Health

Rowhomes in Philadelphia

February 15, 2024

Across the United States, rising housing cost burdens have placed a growing share of renter households at risk of eviction. According to recent data, more than 7.5 million people face the threat of an eviction filing each year, with rates being highest among Black renters, female renters, and households with children. Furthermore, growing evidence indicates that informal evictions – those occurring outside the legal system – are at least as common as legal evictions.

In recent years, growing attention to the high prevalence and inequitable distribution of eviction has led to a rapid proliferation of studies on eviction and health. To gain a more comprehensive understanding of these studies’ methods and findings, Patrick Smith, BSN RN, PhD candidate in the department of Community Health and Prevention (CHP) at the Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH), led a scoping review alongside researchers at Drexel, Yale, and American Universities.

Published in the journal Health & Place, Eviction from Rental Housing and Its Links to Health: A Scoping Review presents insights from the authors’ review of 59 full-text studies on the links between eviction (or eviction prevention policies) and health. Across studies and settings, the researchers find compelling evidence that eviction may negatively impact physical and mental health for adults and children, with some evidence indicating that links between eviction and poor health are especially strong for marginalized individuals.

The authors’ findings reinforce that evictions are an important determinant of health, with effects that may last for years and impact health across generations. As importantly, the review also finds strong evidence that policies to prevent eviction, such as those enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, can exert powerful protective effects on physical and mental health.

Building on these insights, the researchers also highlight several areas worthy of further investigation. In particular, the authors suggest that incorporating measures of eviction (legal and informal) into large-scale health surveys may facilitate greater insight into evictions’ potentially long-lasting impacts on physical and mental health; that further qualitative and mixed-methods studies are needed to center evicted tenants’ lived experience and guide the development and implementation of responsive interventions; and that future policy evaluations can play a critical role in evaluating the health impacts of new eviction prevention policies.

Based on these findings, the authors note that focused efforts to prevent evictions – and eliminate disparities in eviction exposures – may have vital implications for advancing population health and health equity.

This scoping review was supported by a National Institutes of Health R01 grant.

Ali Groves, PhD, MHS, associate professor of CHP, and Sarah Dilday, DSPH MPH '23, co-authored this work along with researchers from the Yale University School of Public Health’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and American University’s Department of Sociology.

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