Failure to get on the property ladder “psychologically damaging a generation”

Posted 3 March 2015 by Keith Osborne

A leading cognitive and business psychologist says that the inability of young people to get on the housing ladder is “psychologically damaging a generation” who are forced to live at home longer and build up an increasing amount of debt.

Dr Lynda Shaw, a registered chartered psychologist and Associate Fellow with the British Psychological Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, also goes on to suggest that those who find themselves unable to afford to fly the nest and set up home for themselves are not emotionally progressing in the way previous generations have done.

Shaw says: “This is a generation that finds tertiary education expensive, work hard to come by and buying a home a pipe dream.  Whilst the housing market has regained its momentum, our twenty- and thirty-somethings are increasingly anxious about their inability to get or sustain payment of a mortgage.”

While recognising that previous generations have often struggled to afford to buy their first home, Shaw says that there is evidence that young people are staying with their parents longer than they used to because of the very large sums needed to buy a home. Figures from organisations such as housing charity Shelter and the Office for National Statistics show that greater numbers of the young are remaining in the parental home and are, on average, likely to be well into their 30s before being able to put down a deposit on a home without outside financial assistance. 

Shaw says that as a result, psychologically and emotionally these young people may feel they are not going anywhere, with goals getting further away and motivation difficult to maintain.

“Buying a house is probably the biggest purchase most people are ever going to make in their lifetime - we all have the desire to live in a home that we can call our own and being a homeowner brings a sense of security, stability and long-term investment for the future,” she says. “Instead we have a generation who are delaying having children, who are working excessively long hours to make ends meet and who are out of touch with their community.”

She says that the effects extend even further as young families not owning their own homes feel they no longer have an asset to pass to their children in years to come.

“This generation has very little hope of being able to significantly help their own children financially, which makes them feel inadequate,” Shaw explains. “The truth is the majority of young individuals, couples and families struggle to make ends meet. In the meanwhile the sandwich generation are stretching themselves to the full and working harder than ever to ensure rent and bills are paid on time and their 20- or 30-year-old children are still well looked after in addition to the elderly parents.  This emotional and financial strain is unsustainable.” 

She adds that those in their senior years are also feeling the sting too: “People are not just having to work longer and harder to pay off their mortgage and to help support their own families, they are finding it hard to pay for changes in their own homes. When getting up a flight of stairs or climbing into a bath becomes a struggle, will they have the financial capital to pay for these adjustments?” 

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