Mortgage debt, insecure home ownership and health: an exploratory analysis

S Nettleton, R Burrows

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper is a direct response to Wilkinson's (1996) call for more research into housing insecurity and health. It explores the consequences of mortgage arrears for both the health of indebted home owners and their use of primary health care services. It is based on the results of a secondary analysis of the British Household Panel Survey. It demonstrates that the experience of mortgage indebtedness has an independent effect on the subjective well being of men and women, and that it increases the likelihood that men will visit their general practitioners. The paper draws upon the sociological notions of 'ontological security' and 'individualisation' to make sense of these empirical findings. It suggests that policies which have encouraged the growth of home ownership are premised on the idea of individual responsibility, a notion which underpins other spheres of contemporary welfare policies. Within this context, the consequences of mortgage indebtedness are likely to have profound psychosocial consequences for those who have direct experience of it. The spectre of mortgage debt may also contribute to the insecurity which has come to form a feature of our contemporary social and cultural life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-753
Number of pages23
JournalSociology of Health and Illness: A Journal of Medical Sociology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1998


  • home ownership
  • insecurity
  • mortgage debt
  • health
  • England

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