You know those days. The air conditioner dies and you’re a sweaty grouch until the repairman arrives. Imagine your mood if you had to live in that mess all summer? Or what if you had to breathe exhaust from the freeway outside your window every day? Or wonder whether your kindergartener will get caught in gang-shooting crossfire?
Those are a few of many unhealthy housing conditions that directly impact our emotional and mental health. Living in unsafe, unhealthy conditions, without any way to fix it, can leave a person stressed, agitated and depressed even if they’re not aware of it.
“The people who face the toughest time finding an affordable place to live also encounter the most difficulty meeting their health-care needs,” says Tyler Norris, MDiv, chief executive for Well Being Trust, a foundation dedicated to advancing the nation’s mental, social and spiritual health. “Health and housing are intrinsically linked.”
“How people feel in their environment has a massive impact on their mental health,” adds Ruth Ann Norton, president of Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI), an organization devoted to creating and advocating for healthy, safe, energy-efficient homes. “Our home contributes to our health as much as nutrition and exercise.”
The affects of a toxic home manifest more quickly than they resolve. UK and Australian researchers analyzed housing and mental health issues using data from more than 16,000 people between 1996 and 2008. Results showed that people experiencing poor housing (adequate light and heat, dampness, leaking roof, rotted walls and/or floors) for even one year reported poorer mental health than people with good housing. Once the poor conditions were removed, people continued to report a lower quality of life for four more years.
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