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House-warming improvements linked to better health

House-warming improvements linked to better health

In a review of existing evidence on the health value of fixes to housing, researchers say that improving buildings to enhance “thermal comfort” – with central heating or insulation, for instance – pays off in both physical and mental wellbeing.

“I think the main message is that housing improvement can improve health, especially if it’s warmth and energy improvements targeting people with respiratory illnesses,” said Hilary Thomson, the study’s lead author from the Medical Research Council in Glasgow, UK.

Several studies have tied poor housing conditions to poor health, but there are some questions about the quality of evidence for that link, according to Thomson and her colleagues.

They write in the journal The Cochrane Library that doubts arise because researchers have trouble teasing apart the effects of poor housing and other factors that may play a role, such as age and poverty.

The most common housing conditions tied to poor health, they write, are air quality, heat and humidity conditions, radon, noise, dust, tobacco smoke, falls and fires.

To see whether improving the physical conditions in homes could translate into tangible improvement in residents’ health, the researchers pooled information from 39 previously published studies on the topic.

The past research examined a number of possible housing improvements, including refurbishing existing homes, relocating people to new homes and providing bathrooms.

Most of the data from these disparate studies could not be combined into a single pool for analysis because the research designs were too different. So instead, Thomson’s team concentrated on the results that stood out across studies.

Overall, they found, programs that improve temperature control in the homes of people who are in poor health and in the worst quality housing lead to the greatest benefit, compared to improvements that are applied to whole areas of housing regardless of need.

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