Our environment and surroundings impact our psychology in numerous ways; our cognition, ability to think, and the ability to perceive ideas are influenced by the settings in which we live. It has been observed that people who pay attention to their physical and mental wellbeing are sound-minded and have a better ability of decision making. For a very long time, health – whether mental or physical in our society has been dealt with at a subterranean level, particularly mental health which is still considered a taboo. Different studies and policies have shown that housing has a direct impact on our mental and physical health, our housing conditions can either improve or deteriorate our wellbeing.
Graana.com explores the relationship between health and how it is influenced by our dwellings in which we live. Similarly, the impact of our neighbourhoods also has a significant impact on our psychology which can impact our mental health.
It may sound a little off the track however, different cases have shown that our health is directly associated with our modes of living. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined health not only as the absence of an ailment or disease rather health as a ‘state of complete physical, mental and social well being.
Similarly, the concept of homes as held by WHO is different from what is perceived. For WHO home or shelter is not only a structure of the roof rather, the definition of WHO also incorporates elements associated with ‘healthy homes’ which are homes with water supply and electricity, waste management facilities, sanitation facilities, sturdy structures of homes, incorporates hygienic practices, and homes that take in account environmental factors.
What we deduce from the above-mentioned literature is that health is directly associated with housing and if not developed properly it can pose serious health concerns for the residents. Moreover, from the earlier definitions, the housing in developing countries merely meets these requirements thus translating into different health-associated diseases such as Building Related Illness (BRI), and Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).
Below mentioned is the explanation of the phenomenon that how our health is impacted by various factors in housing.
Inadequate Housing Conditions
One of the foremost factors that impacts the health of individuals is the inadequate housing conditions of the houses. The inadequate conditions can be related to indoor air pollution, ineffective mechanisms of sanitation, and infestations. All of these conditions contribute to the BRI which proves detrimental to the wellbeing of the individual. Few illnesses that are the attribute of inadequate housing conditions include Legionnellosis, mesothelioma, and dust allergy.
In a report issued by WHO regional office for Europe, the loss in IQs of children was also attributed to the use of lead in paints and pipes although it does not have a direct relation to inadequate housing conditions, it is raising serious concerns for the future.
Sick Building Syndrome
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is also one of the attributes of lack of adequate housing conditions. This syndrome has varying health symptoms and cannot be traced to one particular origin. The most common symptoms falling under SBS include lack of concentration, fatigue, eye irritation, and sore throat. In most cases, Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) contribute to the symptoms mentioned earlier.
Along with SBS, the residents should also be cognizant of various materials that can cause various diseases. Application of ‘Asbestos’ is very common in different households; when breathed in, asbestos can cause various lung diseases therefore its use must be minimised in households.
The increasing air pollution across the major urban cities of the world also has a direct impact on the indoor air quality of homes. The indoor air quality of the home can pose issues related to breathing. There are different elements present inside households that can hamper indoor air quality. One of the prominent examples is the emission of Nitrogen dioxide gas in households due to the burning of methane, boilers, and burning coal for heating purposes. Radon of the radioactive material is responsible for causing lung cancer among the residents. According to the WHO’s estimates, almost 3-14 per cent of people in developing countries get lung cancer due to the concentration of Radon in homes and workplaces.
Mental Health and Housing
Mental Health is one of the major issues that cause distress and agitation among people. It is a common perception that health is only related to the physical aspects of the body however, mental health is one of the major issues that has particularly gripped the youth. Various studies have cited that mental health is also associated with the way we live in our dwellings. One of the precursors behind deteriorating mental health is associated with poor housing quality. It has been observed that poor housing raises distress levels which also become a cause behind domestic violence. Similarly, poor housing also hurts the self-esteem of the people which is becoming a major cause behind mental illness.
A report issued by WHO found that the distress level among people can be decreased by making few alterations in homes in the form of penetration of sunlight, incorporating mechanisms that reduce noise, and a good view of outdoors from the buildings.
Damp Buildings and Microbial Growth
Excessive moisture, seeping water, and flooding cause dampness in buildings which results in microbial growth. One of the manifestations of microbes can be fungi mould. The economy of microbial growth revolves around various environmental aspects when combining with factors of indoor environment results in microbial growth. However, one of the major factors that result in sprouting microbes is moisture; therefore, the microbial growth in homes can be avoided by controlling the moisture in homes. The symptoms of microbial growth on our health can be observed in the form of respiratory problems, fatigue, mental stress, and headaches.