The Intersection of Housing and Mental Health in Colorado
Mapping Critical Social Determinants of Health
Affordable housing is a social determinant of health that creates a critical foundation for resilient and healthy communities. While it is clear that the stress of navigating unaffordable housing contributes to poor mental health, there is more to understand about the intersection of housing and mental health, especially related to the geographical locations in Colorado where these two persistent issues coincide.
Using Colorado statewide data at the census tract level, this study employed various geospatial analytical techniques to investigate geographic relationships and identify priority area census tracts where the following two critical issues coincided: housing unaffordability (defined as rent burden) and high prevalence of mental health issues (defined as mental health distress, drug-related mortality, and suicide mortality). In addition, these priority area census tracts were examined in relationship to access to mental health treatment within 30 minutes of driving. Other social determinants of health were also examined to provide more insight into the characteristics of these locations.
Six percent of all census tracts in Colorado have a significantly higher prevalence of both rent-burdened households and mental health issues than the state average. These 71 priority area census tracts are most concentrated in five metropolitan regions: Pueblo, Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Grand Junction.
An interactive mapping tool is available here.
In identifying and providing a deeper understanding of these census tracts, this study offers policymakers guidance on where to target programs that support affordable housing and mental health. This cross-system information can help policymakers to more effectively coordinate the allocation of resources addressing these two persistent issues.