The average American spends about 90% of their time indoors, and most of that time is spent at home. Children spend the most time at home. Housing quality refers to a home’s physical state and the quality of the neighborhood’s social and natural environment. These factors have a direct impact on the health of your family or other members of your household. Poor housing is known to contribute to preventable injuries and conditions such as cardiovascular, nervous system, and respiratory diseases, and in some cases, cancer. That explains why roughly 300,000 to 400,000 uninhabitable homes are brought down every year. This read will explore how your home influences your health.
1. Physical Conditions
Quality housing free from physical hazards promotes stable mental and physical health. Poorly constructed housing, on the other hand, can negatively impact a child’s development and contribute to chronic illnesses and injuries in both children and adults. Lead paint, poor indoor air quality, and other hazards are often present in homes, putting your family at significant risk for a variety of health issues.
For instance, lead poisoning permanently alters the development of the brain and neurological system, leading to reading disabilities and lower IQ. In the presence of pest infestations, issues like dirty carpets, poor ventilation, water leaks, mold growth, and other hazards linked to poor health tend to proliferate faster. This is why having your roof inspected every three to five years is recommended.
Cold indoor conditions have also been linked to poor health, particularly cardiovascular disease. Extreme fluctuations in temperature have been reported to increase mortality among vulnerable populations like the elderly. Overcrowding has been linked to physical illnesses like tuberculosis and other respiratory infections, as well as psychological distress in both children and adults.
2. Neighborhood Conditions
Along with circumstances within the home, the neighborhood where a home is located can also have a significant impact on a person’s health. A neighborhood’s social, physical, and economic characteristics have been found to affect lifespan and short- and long-term health quality. For example, the qualities of a neighborhood may contribute to improved health by offering safe spaces for adults and children to exercise and play. Access to more fresh produce in grocery stores and fewer neighborhood fast food outlets, convenience stores, and liquor stores can also promote a healthier lifestyle. The availability of job opportunities and public services, such as reliable transportation, efficient law enforcement, and quality education can enhance social and economic conditions in a neighborhood, which in turn promotes good health.
3. Housing Affordability
Whether renting or buying, housing is considered affordable when it costs less than 30% of a family’s income. Low-income families are frequently forced to live in subpar housing in dangerous, congested neighborhoods with greater poverty rates and fewer resources for health promotion (such as recreation centers, bike paths, and parks) due to the lack of affordable housing options.
Lack of affordable housing directly impacts a family’s capacity to meet other necessary expenses, leaving many under severe financial duress. Low-income families are particularly affected by high housing-related costs since they must choose between paying for food, heating, and other essentials. Handling housing issues, like basement mold, can be a severe challenge. Since roughly 38% of basements affected by moisture develop fungus and mold growth, which can lead to allergic reactions in members of a household, a lack of safe, affordable housing is a health risk.
Low-income individuals who struggle to pay their utility bills, rent, or mortgage payments are less likely to have a regular source of medical care. They’re more likely to put off seeking care and go to the ER for treatment. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a study found a correlation between children’s health, behavioral issues, and academic performance in locations with greater rates of unaffordable housing.
The physical and mental health of a person is significantly impacted by the quality of housing. Poor housing conditions have been linked to several negative health outcomes. Understanding how your home influences your health and that of your family will help you better protect yourself against potential hazards.