"Housing – its ability to provide shelter, its quality, location, warmth
– has proven to be a key factor in the pandemic’s “syndemic” nature.
That is, as well as shaping exposure to the virus itself, housing
contributes to the social patterning of chronic diseases that increase
Housing affects health in many ways. At the broad scale, housing
disadvantage, unaffordable housing and housing of poor quality have been
the focus of much recent Australian research. More specific housing
drivers of health, such as household mould, injury, overcrowding, noise,
cold and damp, have received renewed global attention.
However, capturing the combined health effect of housing is difficult.
It’s hard to measure and has many components, and everyone has slightly
different housing (and health).
But epidemiologists can provide us with a useful way of estimating the
“burden” of various risk factors for population health. Housing risk
factors have rarely been examined in Australia, but our estimates flag
that the increasing health burden of housing demands attention.
For example, we estimate the health cost (measured in
disability-adjusted life years) due to respiratory and cardiovascular
disease that can be attributed to mouldy or damp housing is about three
times the cost attributable to sugary drinks in Australia. Damp, cold
and mouldy housing generates a substantial health burden and could be an
easy target for public health prevention strategies. These housing
conditions stand alongside many of the classic risk factors such as
diet, smoking and obesity.
This estimate of health burden does not even factor in the important
role housing plays in mental health. Housing affordability, security,
suitability, location and condition are all associated with good mental
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics