New Study Links Poor Quality Housing to Poor Health

New Study Links Poor Quality Housing to Poor Health

Written by: Elspeth Holland and Colin Powell on January 17, 2017; Topic: Residential

As healthy homes continue to be a hot topic and as demographics shift, there is sure to be much more interest in green renovation and energy efficiency strategies that incorporate health co-benefits, like Build Upon, a WorldGBC Regional Project being undertaken in Europe. That project, with over 25 participating Green Building Councils, aims to renovate existing buildings to make them more energy efficient, but also to improve health outcomes for those in those buildings.

Interestingly, a new study from Maastricht University in the Netherlands has found a strong association between the condition of our homes and reported health status.

The report is based on the analysis of a longitudinal dataset of 25,000 German households (approximately 58,000 people).

The findings established that inhabitants of poorly maintained homes reported lower health status:

  • Individuals living in a home in need of partial renovation are 1.1% more likely to report poor health;
  • People in homes in need of major renovations are 2.5% more likely to report poor health

It was also reported that gender affected how a person’s health is impacted by a poorly maintained home:

  • For women who go to the doctor, the number of visits is 5.7% higher when the home needs renovation, and up to 23.3% higher for a major renovation;
  • For men, there was no significant difference in visits to the hospital when living in a poorly maintained home

Age also affected how a person’s health is impacted by a poorly maintained home:

  • For those below 40, there was no significant difference in visits to the hospital when living in a poorly maintained home
  • When homes are in need of a major renovation: people between 41 and 50 visit their doctor 17.5% more than those who live in a well-maintained home; the number jumps to 31.2% for those 51-63 and is 28.3% for those 64 and over.

What the results show is that elderly women are clearly more impacted by their built environment than other demographics. The researchers note this effect may also be caused by differences in exposure. Those over 64 tend to be retired and are therefore likely to spend more time at home, thus increasing their exposure to poor home conditions.

The report underscores the importance of up-keeping our homes to maintain health and longevity. It goes to show that even small or partial renovations can have major improvements on our overall health and we need to be cognizant of the impact of our daily environment.

Improvements to our living spaces can be made through minor renovations, and also through green interventions and small behavioural changes in how we use our homes. For example, using low VOC paint can improve indoor air quality, opening your windows more can improve ventilation and placing plants around the home can remove toxins and make you feel better.

These suggestions are in line with the recent UK-GBC report on Healthy Homes and Communities which demonstrated how a green home is a healthy home. Visit their website for more information and stay tuned for more on this topic from Better Places for People.