A qualitative study of the impact of the UK 'bedroom tax'

J Public Health (Oxf). 2016 Jun;38(2):197-205. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdv031. Epub 2015 Mar 15.


Background: The implementation of the 'Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy' in April 2013, commonly known as the 'bedroom tax', affects an estimated 660 000 working age social housing tenants in the UK, reducing weekly incomes by £12-£22. This study aimed to examine the impact of this tax on health and wellbeing in a North East England community in which 68.5% of residents live in social housing.

Methods: Qualitative study using interviews and a focus group with 38 social housing tenants and 12 service providers.

Results: Income reduction affected purchasing power for essentials, particularly food and utilities. Participants recounted negative impacts on mental health, family relationships and community networks. The hardship and debt that people experienced adversely affected their social relationships and ability to carry out normal social roles. Residents and service providers highlighted negative impacts on the neighbourhood, as well as added pressure on already strained local services.

Conclusions: The bedroom tax has increased poverty and had broad-ranging adverse effects on health, wellbeing and social relationships within this community. These findings strengthen the arguments for revoking this tax.

Keywords: communities; mental health; socio-economic factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diet
  • England
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty* / economics
  • Poverty* / psychology
  • Public Housing
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Taxes* / economics
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult