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The impact of housing on health


The influential Marmot Review* conducted in 2010 provided evidence linking housing design and build quality with physical health and mental well-being. The Review states that "bad housing conditions - including homelessness, temporary accommodation, overcrowding, insecurity and housing in poor physical condition - constitute a risk to health", and estimated the annual direct cost of poor housing to the NHS at £2.5billion.


Thermal comfort plays a significant role in the health of a building's occupants. Poor design, low build quality and a lack of maintenance can reduce how effectively a building can be heated, cooled and ventilated. This leads to health issues related to the cold and poor air quality, as well as a high cost to run. The Marmot Review calculated that cold homes cost the NHS in England £1.36billion a year.*


Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) found in many conventional building materials can also cause adverse health effects, especially in those with existing respiratory conditions.


A study by Shelter found that "children in bad housing conditions are more likely to have mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, respiratory problems, experience long term ill health and disability, experience slow physical growth and have delayed cognitive development. These adverse outcomes reflect both the direct impact of the housing and the associated material deprivation."


"Ensuring an adequate and affordable housing supply is fundamental to a society where people can flourish and realise their potential."


Research from The Health Foundation** uncovers links between adequate housing and both physical and mental health concerns. Our home can provide us with a healthy environment if it is: affordable; a place where we feel safe and comfortable; if it provides for the whole household's needs; and if it is well connected to community, work and services. However, 1/5th of homes in the UK do not reach these standards.

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