Where we live has an enormous impact on our health and well-being. Recent research has demonstrated that the neighborhood in which a person lives can be an more important predictor of health than his or her genetic makeup. If individual and family health depends on their zip code, it is more important than ever to understand the links between housing and health, and to help find ways to improve housing and neighborhood opportunities for all.
Why Housing Opportunity is Important to Health
It has been estimated that the so-called “social determinants” of health—behaviors, environment, and social circumstances—are more important than our genetics or even our level of health care in explaining overall health. Housing is a critical component of those social determinants, and housing quality, location and access impact health in numerous ways.
The research examining the link between homelessness and health outcomes most explicitly demonstrates the connection between housing stability and good health. However, we know that housing and neighborhood quality and affordability more broadly can impact physical and mental health and well-being.
Households with poor quality housing face significantly more health problems than do other families. Living in substandard housing puts residents at risk of harm including falls, other accidental injuries and lead poisoning. Children and adults living in poor housing quality have much higher rates of asthma and greater likelihood of asthma-related emergency room visits.
In addition, research has shown that living in lower-poverty neighborhoods is significantly related to better physical and mental health. People living in higher-income neighborhoods have lower rates of obesity, diabetes and asthma, and higher levels of personal satisfaction and mental well-being.
Finally, there is growing understanding that prior discrimination in housing markets, including redlining and door slamming, have had persistent impacts over generations and can partially explain the continuing health disparities between white and minority residents. Where we live matters for our physical and mental health and well-being. It is not just the quality of housing, but also housing affordability stability that matters. The ability to access high-quality health care is important, but so, too, is living in a neighborhood with good opportunities for physical activity and social interaction.
We partner with local communities who are looking for ways to build healthy communities. Please reach out if we can help you!