Ontological security and psycho-social benefits from the home: Qualitative evidence on issues of tenure

Rosemary Hiscock, Ade Kearns, Sally MacIntyre, Anne Ellaway

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168 Citations (SciVal)


It has been said that people need the confidence, continuity and trust in the world which comprise ontological security in order to lead happy and fulfilled lives, and furthermore that ontological security can be attained more through owner occupied than rented housing. Ontological security, however, can be elusive both in a real sense and in empirical research terms. As part of a study of the relationships between housing tenure and health, we explored through in-depth interviews with 43 adults the extent to which home owners and social renters in the West of Scotland obtained psycho-social benefits from their homes. It is important to acknowledge the regional context of the study, in particular the residualised state of social rented housing in the UK and the problematic, post-industrial nature of the Scottish regional economy. Interviewees felt protected by their homes when they were in a low crime area which was more likely to be in an area of owner occupied housing. For some interviewees owner occupation provided less protection than social renting from the threat of losing the home because of the risk of repossession. Inhabiting a house rather than a flat could promote autonomy over the home, as could having skills or income to carry out repairs and maintenance. Owner occupation was thought to be more prestigious than social renting, but whether being prestigious was desirable was sometimes contested. Interviewees also talked about ontological security in terms of the home being a site of constancy but this runs counter to the restless tendency to move house in order to progress in society and move up the housing ladder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-66
Number of pages17
JournalHousing, Theory and Society
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2001


  • Housing tenure
  • Ontological security
  • Scotland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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