Housing assistance programs and adult health in the United States

Andrew Fenelon, Patrick Mayne, Alan E. Simon, Lauren M. Rossen, Veronica Helms, Patricia Lloyd, Jon Sperling, Barry L. Steffen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Objectives. To examine whether access to housing assistance is associated with better health among low-income adults. Methods. We used National Health Interview Survey data (1999-2012) linked to US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administrative records (1999-2014) to examine differences in reported fair or poor health and psychological distress. We used multivariable models to compare those currently receiving HUD housing assistance (public housing, housing choice vouchers, and multifamily housing) with those who will receive housing assistance within 2 years (the average duration of HUD waitlists) to account for selection into HUD assistance. Results. We found reduced odds of fair or poor health for current public housing (odds ratio [OR] = 0.77; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.57, 0.97) and multifamily housing (OR = 0.75; 95% CI = 0.60, 0.95) residents compared with future residents. Public housing residents also had reduced odds of psychological distress (OR = 0.59; 95% CI = 0.40, 0.86). These differences were not mediated by neighborhood-level characteristics, and we did not find any health benefits for current housing choice voucher recipients. Conclusions. Housing assistance is associated with improved health and psychological well-being for individuals entering public housing and multifamily housing programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-578
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


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