The health effects of improvements to housing: A longitudinal study
ABSTRACT: Although housing conditions were an integral part of the emergence of the Public Health movement, there has been relatively little research on the relationship between housing and health compared to that on social inequalities in general. This is surprising in view of the fact that one of the major links between social inequalities and health is adverse housing conditions. Findings from previous investigations in several countries of the presence of damp and mould in housing and symptoms in the occupants have indicated that the associations may well be causal. However, there have been no studies which have assessed the health of the residents before and after the elimination of dampness/mould. This paper describes a longitudinal study designed to evaluate the effects of an improved heating system on the symptoms of children living on a peripheral housing estate. The results suggested that the elimination of dampness/mould prevented a further deterioration in health rather than bringing about an improvement. The presence of other factors known to influence health status, such as financial difficulties and other housing problems, may have offset any benefits arising from the new heating system. The methodological issues that arose in conducting the study in an area of severe social disadvantage are described. It is suggested that the complexity of the interactions between bad housing and low income, should not detract attention from the need for intersectoral co‐operation to address the issue.