Get home, close the door, sink on to the sofa after a hard day. A familiar image? Adverts depicting smiling, happy people in lovely homes surround us. Having your own home is clearly an aspiration for our society. 

Houses are more than physical structures providing shelter. They are homes – where we bring up our families, socialise with friends, our own space where we can unwind, keep our possessions safe and take refuge from the rest of the world. They’re where we spend most of our time.

Where we live can influence our health through many means. Our new infographic illustrates the main ways in which the links between housing and health play out.

Infographic depicting how our home can influence our health

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It’s clear that housing conditions can influence our physical health. For example, a warm and dry house can improve general health outcomes and specifically reduce respiratory conditions. However, housing also has a huge influence on our mental health and wellbeing – children living in crowded homes are more likely be stressed, anxious and depressed, have poorer physical health, and attain less well at school. 

While developing this infographic, I’ve also been house hunting. Looking down my list of requirements, it struck me that many of them were not about the house itself. Affordability was a huge factor, as was how easy it was to get to work, and travel to see friends and family. Living where you can afford and having security in knowing you won’t be kicked out at a moment’s notice helps us to put down roots and have a stable base. I realised I was also looking for a sense of community and belonging – somewhere I can feel linked to my neighbours and surroundings. I’m lucky that I have a degree of choice in where I live – but many don’t. 

Housing has rarely been out of the news in recent months. As we highlight, 1 in 5 dwellings in England do not meet the Decent Homes standard, and a third of these are in the private rental sector, the fastest growing segment of the UK housing market. There is also unequal distribution of good quality housing. Those who are elderly or young, isolated, without a support network, and adults with disabilities are more likely to be affected. It’s not surprising that young people are concerned about this when they spend nearly a quarter of their income on housing – a theme that we are exploring in our work on the Young People’s Inquiry.  

Throughout this series, we have been looking at the bigger picture of what makes us healthy. This infographic highlights the important contribution of housing. Where we live can promote our health if it is:

  • affordable and provides a stable and secure base
  • a place where we feel safe and comfortable
  • able to provide for all the household’s requirements
  • connected to community, work and services.

‘A safe, settled home is the cornerstone on which individuals and families build a better quality of life, access services they need and gain greater independence.’ This quote from Jake Eliot, formerly of the National Housing Federation, clearly illustrates how housing is key to improved health and wellbeing. Investing in housing, particularly for vulnerable people, can also affect and avoid costs for other public services, reducing costs of health services and residential care, for example. 

We hope that this infographic further advances the recognition of the important links between housing and health. We also hope it helps support our colleagues working across housing, health, social care and other key areas such as planning to realise the vital contribution that they make in enabling good health and wellbeing. Working to ensure an adequate and affordable housing supply is not only a matter of social justice. As we illustrate, it also helps to support and improve people’s immediate and long term health prospects – and is fundamental to a society where people can flourish and realise their potential.

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Joia de Sa is Public Health Specialty Registrar, working with the Health Foundation to develop our Healthy Lives infographics.

Further reading

Comments

darren



Tried desperately to hang on to my nursing career, but ill health means that am no longer able to practice as my current manager had me medically suspended and cannot recommend my character health for fitness to practise. I have been struggling to get around with angina and ischemic heart disease since 2013.During this period have moved numerous times having lost my home and summoned to court for eviction process. Try to manage numerous other chronic health conditions and awaiting complex angiography procedure to determine whether chronic plaque can be safely balloon stented. Am awaiting a repair of a aortic abdominal and thoracic aneurysm, but am living in NHS accommodation run by Newlon housing trust. Am now in a position where I will not have finances to meet my living requirements and fear eviction and court yet again.
At present am in the process of appealing against a pensions decision on ill health retirement as cardiologist suggested work with restrictions was okay. However, this has changed very recently with new evidence, that suggests moderate to severe ischemic heart muscle damage.
I am living an absolute nightmare in fear and dread of what will happen to me. Have already lost my furniture from previous as had no means or place to store it and was physically unable to move it. Unable to sleep at night as get discomfort in my chest. If that does not keep me awake then its the fear that I could potentially die in my sleep.
So yes, having secure accommodation does help, especially for those facing uncertain outcomes.




Clara Morrish



Dear Darren,
I'm very sorry to hear about your current situation. Thank you for taking the time to write this comment. I hope you get the support you need going forward.
Best wishes,
Clara, Communications team at the Health Foundation



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