HOME may be where the heart is but now Scottish researchers have proved that it may well be where the health is.

Stirling University experts have discovered that the ability to feel “at home” has a significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing.

Academics studied 75 tenants living in rented properties in Glasgow for more than a year and found that being able to settle in to a new tenancy helped to reduce health inequalities.

The findings could have implications for social landlords, particularly for housing associations.

Dr Steve Rolfe, Research Fellow in Housing Studies at the University of Stirling, who led the study said: “Importantly, this is not just about obvious housing problems like homelessness or damp, cold properties, but about how much people feel at home.

“In rented property, our study shows that the behaviour of the landlord or housing organisation is key to whether tenants are able to settle in to a new tenancy.

“This has a direct correlation to their health and wellbeing.”

It is well known that the decline of social housing stock in Scotland and the parallel rise of the private rented sector has created a major challenge for those looking for affordable homes.

The university noted that the proportion of households in the private rented sector has more than doubled since the turn of the century, now accounting for one in six households. As a result, more low-income and vulnerable households are renting privately, often for many years.

The research looked at three organisations which specialise in housing people who face a range of barriers when looking for a new home, including low incomes, homelessness or a disability.

The study identified four key elements essential for a good housing experience: a good relationship with the landlord or housing association, a quality property, support with financial obligations and a choice of neighbourhood – all of which helped a new tenant to feel at home.

Dr Rolfe added: “Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. Tenants told us how important it was to have a named member of staff to contact, who actually knew them and understood their circumstances.

“Where housing organisations can provide this personal connection for tenants, it helps them to settle quickly into their new tenancy, feel at home and, therefore, have better health and wellbeing outcomes.”