The relationship between housing tenure and health : does ontological security play a role?
Previous research in the UK and elsewhere has found that housing tenure (i.e. whether the dwelling is owned or rented) predicts mortality and morbidity. This thesis aims to explain whether ontological security (a long term tendency to believe things are reliable and secure as opposed to threatening) is more likely to be associated with owner occupation, and therefore whether it helps to explain the observed association with tenure and health. For the purposes of this study ontological security was operationalised as being formed of three components: protection, autonomy and prestige. A scale was devised to measure ontological security arising from the home through these three components. This scale was included in a postal survey that also included questions on health, housing area, psychological and sociodemographic characteristics. The postal survey was sent to a random sample of adults in the West of Scotland and nearly 300 completed questionnaires were returned. I found that ontological security was associated with owner occupation but not independently of features of housing. Ontological security was not independently related to housing tenure itself. Owner occupiers reported more ontological security from their homes because their homes were in better condition, situated in better areas and of higher value than social renters. Ontological security appeared to be related to health particularly through psychological characteristics. Other reasons for the associations between tenure and health were that owners were on average younger and richer than social renters. This study suggests that social meaning per se may not be health damaging, but that social rented homes might put their occupants at greater health risk because they are in poorer condition, located in more poorly resourced and problem ridden areas and of lower status. These features of social renting may also be observed in other countries (e.g. USA).