How do housing problems affect health?

Solving housing problems is essential to have a good quality of life. Although this is not always possible due to lack of resources, efforts can be made to improve.

Last update: November 22, 2021

Housing problems have a significant influence on health, although many times this goes unnoticed. The characteristics of the house are factors that promote the quality of life or contribute to making those who live in it sick.

It is estimated that around 2 billion people in the world do not have a toilet at home. In developing countries, 2 out of 3 families require a higher quality home. At the same time, some 14 million people are homeless each year.

Therefore, it is very important to solve housing problems. This is an objective that must also engage governments.

Housing problems and their influence on health

There are several housing problems that have a major impact on health. Among them are the following.

Problems on the floors

Many homes in the world do not have a concrete floor. There are a considerable number of homes in which the floors are dirt.

This facilitates the presence and settlement of parasites and vermin in the home. This is very harmful if there are children or people with weakened immune systems.

Walls

When the walls are poorly built or made with unsuitable materials, they have an effect similar to that of dirt floors: presence of vermin and parasites. What’s more, have a higher risk of collapse and do not offer adequate thermal insulation for those who live there.

Poor ceilings

Another of the most common housing problems is damaged or inadequate roofs. If they are not well built, they promote humidity. This, in turn, brings about the formation of mold and other fungi.

Lighting and ventilation

Having windows is very important, since they provide lighting and ventilation to the house. However, mosquito nets are required in some places and not all have them.

Likewise, when neighborhoods are unsafe, people tend to seal their windows or lower them, depriving themselves of light and fresh air.

Windows provide lighting and ventilation. Both processes work as antiseptics.

Energy

There are still many houses in which they cook with wood and charcoal. This generates smoke that is harmful to the respiratory system.

On the other hand, especially in developed countries, heating and ventilation systems are often not as efficient as required. This leads to inadequate temperature control inside the home.

Little space

Overcrowding is an increasingly common problem in the modern world. It is defined as the relationship between the available space and the number of people who inhabit a house.

Although it is not a universal measure, there is overcrowding when more than 3 people must sleep in the same room. In some homes, the space is also shared with animals.

Water and sanitation services

This is a crucial factor for good health. It is one of the housing problems that affects many families and significantly increases the risk of illness. Have drinking water and sanitary services at home is decisive to prevent diseases.

Environment

Adequate housing must be accessible. This assumes a location that does not imply risks and features that facilitate the mobility of children, the elderly and people with disabilities. Likewise, the environment should be free of contamination and without danger of catastrophes or social insecurity.



Health problems caused by housing

Housing problems can have a direct impact on a person’s physical and mental health. Among the possible consequences derived from this are the following.

Mental health impairment

Overcrowding facilitates sexual abuse and domestic violence. Likewise, it increases levels of stress and depression, while contributing to low self-esteem. If a person does not have an adequate living space, they also have problems developing their personality independently.

On the other hand, a dangerous neighborhood or environment is a factor that makes people more vulnerable to anxiety and insomnia. It also makes people more likely to become victims of crime or assault.

A scientific study showed that people who live in overcrowded places have poorer mental health than those who live in places with fewer inhabitants.

Respiratory problems

Places where the structure of the house or the temperature regulation systems are not adequate have a greater potential to become a breeding ground for respiratory diseases.

This is corroborated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On the other hand, poor air quality, ventilation problems and everything related to this increases the risk of allergies.

Meanwhile, overcrowding leads to any respiratory infection spreading easily to the other inhabitants of the house, especially if the ventilation is poor and there is no possibility of isolation. This becomes serious in cases of tuberculosis, for example.



Gastrointestinal diseases

Housing problems can also lead to gastrointestinal illnesses. An unsuitable house favors the presence of parasites.

Cardiovascular disease and household materials

When the temperature of the house is not regulated properly, extreme cold or heat can ensue. This increases the risk of cardiovascular problems, especially in older people.

To this must be added the fact that some houses are made with carcinogenic elements such as asbestos or toxic elements such as lead. Continued exposure, obviously, increases the danger.

Asbestos has a significant presence on the roofs of old houses. Several countries have regulated its use in construction.

How to solve housing problems?

If a person has sufficient resources, perhaps they should think first about solving housing problems and having a healthy home before other expenses. The following should be prioritized:

  • Optimize hygiene: This includes proper management of water and the latrine or bathroom, as well as the adoption of healthy habits.
  • Improve air quality: nothing better than having enough windows, protected with mosquito nets if that is the case.
  • Humidity: Fixing ceilings and using suitable wall and floor materials is essential to reduce humidity. Adobe, fired brick, wood, and bamboo are suitable materials.
  • Air conditioning: the ideal is to opt for clean energies. Natural gas is a good option if you don’t have access to solar or other energy.
  • Accessibility: It is necessary to identify mobility risks for children and older adults. Then, adapt the house so that fortuitous events that should be regretted do not occur.

A healthy home is social responsibility

Sometimes solving housing problems is out of the reach of a person, especially because they do not have the resources to do so. It is there where the responsibility of the authorities becomes evident, who must also commit to the issue.

If the house causes health problems, this translates into higher spending for the social security system, more absenteeism and a lower overall quality of life. Therefore, solving housing problems is a matter that concerns us all.

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