Poor quality housing is strongly linked to inequalities in health. Nationally, areas with the poorest quality housing are significantly more likely to have low levels of life expectancy. The effects of poor quality housing impact people throughout their lives. Young people are at particular risk; for example, those living in cold homes are twice as likely to develop respiratory problems as those in warm homes, and children in cold, overcrowded or unsafe housing are more likely to have a longstanding health problem, to be bullied, to not see friends, and to have lower academic attainment. The impacts are carried into adult life and are a key contribution to health inequalities.
For working age adults, poor indoor air quality and dampness are associated with chronic respiratory conditions, while overcrowding and cold are associated with a range of physical illnesses including heart disease. Overcrowding is also linked to poor mental health and higher rates of infectious diseases. Older adults can be particularly vulnerable to housing-related health risks, including hypothermia and injury resulting from falls.
NHS costs could be reduced by around £2 billion per year if poor-quality homes were brought up to standard.
Addressing this requires action at many levels. Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity – an organisation with centuries-strong links to Lambeth and Southwark – is undertaking a major 10-year programme to address how people living in diverse urban communities develop multiple long-term health conditions with the aim of reducing health inequalities and helping slow people’s progression from one long-term condition to many.
GSTC has commissioned Future of London, Catherine Max Consulting, and the King’s Fund to develop solutions and offer practical advice. The project, running throughout early 2020, will help GSTC improve health and reduce health inequalities in Lambeth and Southwark, with lessons for urban and health practitioners across London and other cities.
 Buck and Maguire (2015). Inequalities in life expectancy: Changes over time and implications for policy. The King’s Fund.
 Marmot Review Team (2011). Marmot Review Team (2011). The health impacts of cold homes and fuel poverty. Institute of health Equity.
 NatCen Social Research (2013). Child poverty in Britain: causes and consequences
 BRE (2015). The cost of poor housing to the NHS
We’d like to connect with practitioners working in health, housing, or the intersection of the two. If you have expertise on the topic or are interested in contributing to the project, contact Amanda Robinson.
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