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In brief: The effects of poor quality housing, VR, and disability benefits

Image of damp on wall
Sarah Creates | Unsplash

Top story 1 in 6 young people in UK living in poor quality housing

Research from the Resolution Foundation reveals that around 1 in 6 people aged 18–34 – equivalent to 2.6 million people – are living in poor-quality housing which is severely impacting both their mental and physical health.

The study used data from a recent NewGov survey of 10,122 adults examining the scale of poor-quality housing in the UK, how people are dealing with housing payments through the cost-of-living crisis, and its effect on mental health.

The report found that, overall, 1 in 10 adults are living in poor-quality housing in the UK, which was defined as homes with electrical, heating and plumbing issues, in a poor state of repair, and with the presence of damp.

It was also found that poor-quality housing is mostly concentrated among low-income families, ethnic minorities and the young.

Specifically, 18% of 18–34-year-olds (reaching 26% among 18–24-year-olds), 22% of low-income families, 36% of people from Bangladeshi or Pakistani families, and 26% of black families, are living in poor housing conditions.

Economist at the Resolution Foundation, Lalitha Try, said:

“The UK is blighted by two housing crises. High housing costs are causing many renters in particular to fall behind on housing payments, while poor quality housing is leaving millions of people having to deal with damp and malfunctioning heating, plumbing and electrics.

“High costs and poor housing quality can make life miserable for people and can damage both their personal finances and their wider health.

“It is critical that policymakers tackle both of these crises – by building new affordable housing, and improving the quality of the housing stock we already have.”

95% of young adults struggling with poor mental health

A survey of 2,000 adults aged 18–24 has revealed that 95% of young adults have struggled with mental health symptoms over the past year.

The survey, conducted by Mind and Direct Line Insurance, found that 46% reported feeling low “often” or “all the time,” and 21% felt anxious all the time.

70% felt lonely while around peers, friends and colleagues or classmates, and 83% feel they have less energy.

Only 10% responded that they “loved themselves completely."

Head of Information at Mind, Stephen Barkley, said:

"We are deeply concerned by the findings of this research – the fact that only 10% of young adults love themselves highlights the urgent need for support and resources to help this young generation navigate the complex challenges they face."

NHS uses virtual reality technology for mental health treatment

16 mental health trusts across the UK have been using VR technology to help treat mental health patients.

The technology allows patients to enter a digital 3D world as an avatar, where they are able to explore previously traumatising scenarios in a safe and easily escapable environment.

Patients have the chance to recreate upsetting past experiences and can express themselves through their avatar, allowing them to voice feelings they were too concerned to share in real life.

Co-chairman of the Digital Psychiatry Special Interest Group at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr David Rigby, said:

“There are lots of studies showing that VR can help specific phobias like a fear of flying or spiders by making a digital representation of being on a plane or around spiders. The technology tricks the brain to activate those phobia symptoms in a safe environment.”

Suicide rate grows in construction industry for fifth year in a row

Research from Glasgow Caledonian University and the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity has found that the suicide rate among people working in construction has risen for its fifth consecutive year, from 25.52 per 100,000 in 2015 to 33.82 per 100,000 in 2021.

In response to the worrying report, the mental health charity Band of Builders is expanding its services.

A spokesperson for Band of Builders, Peter Cape, said:

“Band of Builders has a very active community of nearly 50,000 tradespeople and they share so many heartbreaking stories of people who have been lost, are facing some very serious situations or are generally struggling.”

Jason Poulter, Unite National Officer for Construction, highlighted a culture of toxic masculinity as a major barrier for workers to seek help with mental health issues.

“Sadly, construction suicide rates are inexplicably tied to the way the industry operates, with high levels of working away from home, insecure employment and long hours all being obvious factors," said Poulter.

“Everyone associated with the industry needs to work harder to reduce the suicide rates but until the fundamental structural problems are resolved, this will remain a huge challenge for the sector.”

Mind warns government of potential harm to mental health caused by changes to disability benefits

The mental health charity Mind has warned the government that the planned changes to how disability benefits are accessed make it “extremely concerned for the safety and income of people with mental health problems,” and that the plans “make little sense.”

The charity is concerned that the changes will put people with mental health problems at risk of being harmed and sanctioned by the reforms.

The Department for Work and Pensions published the Health and Disability White Paper last month, which outsets reforms to the disability system that will be rolled out over the following few years.

The changes will remove Work Capability Assessment, stopping payments to those who have been assessed as unable to work due to illness, and replacing it with Personal Independence Payments (PIP), which is how the level of daily help a person with disability needs is currently decided.

The main concern surrounds the fact that PIP payments have more rigid thresholds for deciding how much help a person is entitled to, mostly applying to people with mobility issues.

This means that someone who struggled to work due to mental health issues or a recurring health condition will struggle to access help.

Associate director of policy and campaigns at Mind, Vicki Nash said:

“Firstly, we’re worried that some people will miss out financially from this reform, if they are not awarded PIP. And secondly, there is the risk that people who are not well enough will be required to undertake activity to look for or prepare for work, which can really negatively impact on someone’s recovery.

“What we can say with certainty is that replacing the WCA with a potentially worse form of assessment – the PIP assessment – makes little sense.”

‘Better staff mental health and retention’ among businesses with more socialised workers

New research has found that people are much more capable of adapting to career transitions when they feel a connection to their company from the beginning of their employment.

The study, by Durham University Business School, Leeds University, Shandong University, Shenzhen University, Peking University, and Shandong Normal University, highlights that mentorship, training and socialisation strategies at the start of employment improve adaptability, enabling them to better cope with career transitions in the future.

Interestingly, it was also found that employees with a widely experienced background did not see these same benefits, perhaps as this background acted as a more valuable source of learning for them during times of transition than the socialisation strategies provided by an organisation.

The research was conducted on 500 new employees at an IT company in China, where the company provided them with intense socialisation strategies when they started.

Co-research Professor Yanjun Guan from Durham University said:

“In a career world characterised by increasing job mobility and frequent career transitions, an individual’s ability to cope with changes plays a critical role in facilitating individuals' adaptation in their career transitions.

"Often it is thought that the ability to be adaptable comes from a person’s own characteristics, previous experiences, or personality, but our research clearly shows that an effective onboarding strategy designed around key socialisation tactics can actually make new employees more adaptable to future transitions.”


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