Bath student Faye Sanders will present research from the Department of Psychology into associations between housing quality and depressive symptoms to housing experts, government officials and policymakers during an event at Westminster.

The ‘Housing and health - new research to inform better policy making’ event, which will take place on 17 November, is organised by the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change (MiSoC). Its aim is to help policymakers and housing providers support the creation of better living conditions for people in the future. The event’s panel will include The Deputy Mayor of London, members of the International Public Policy Observatory (IPPO), and other government and local authority officials.

Faye will present research conducted by Bath’s Department of Psychology in collaboration with Harvard Medical School and the University of West England (UWE). This found that poor-quality housing can associate with the biology of human beings.

It discovered that low quality housing associated with variation in people’s DNA methylation, which determines how our genes are expressed. This effect was measured in 600 mothers living within the Avon area in the UK.

The research found that this DNA methylation partly explained associations between low quality housing and symptoms of depression, especially in early adulthood.

Speaking about the research and its potential impacts, Faye said:

This is the first ever study to identify how housing quality may play a role in shaping our epigenome.

By discussing these findings at Westminster, I hope it provides an additional perspective to aid understanding the importance of housing quality for health.

The research, titled ‘Home and epigenome: How DNA methylation could explain the association between housing quality and depression’ was conducted by Faye, Dr Esther Walton and Vilte Baltramonaityte from Bath’s Department of Psychology, alongside Alexandre Lussier and Erin Dunn from Harvard Medical School, and Andrew Smith from UWE.

It investigated if factors of housing quality – such as size, facilities, condensation/mould and decorations – associated with DNA methylation.

DNA methylation is a chemical alteration that happens across people’s lifetimes. Although it can be shaped by genetics, it is also shaped by environmental factors around us.

Faye, now a PhD student within Bath’s Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (AAPS) Centre for Doctoral Training, worked on this research while studying BSc (Hons) Psychology, from which she graduated in summer 2023.

The MiSoC event will take place at Westminster on 17 November 2023. It’s free to attend. Find out more and book tickets.

Read this blog from the research team to find out more about the project.