Housing is a social determinant of health. A safe house away from potential hazards can promote well-being. However, living in unsafe or unsuitable housing conditions may contribute to health inequities and be a factor in health problems, such as chronic diseases.

People spend roughly 90% of their time indoors, with most of that time likely being in their home. This emphasizes the potential impact housing can have on a person’s health.

Also, research suggests that social determinants of health, including housing, play a significant role in a person’s health outcomes.

If people live in unsuitable housing, they may be at risk of exposure to a number of potential health hazards. As a result, poor housing may cause or contribute to many preventable injuries and conditions, such as respiratory, nervous system, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as cancer.

In this article, we discuss how housing may impact a person’s health, including certain factors that can have a direct influence.

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Housing quality can directly impact a person’s health. Housing quality typically refers to the physical condition as well as the quality of the social and physical environment of the home’s location.

Factors that can determine quality of housing include air quality, home safety, space per individual, and the presence of possible irritants, such as mold, asbestos, and lead.

Experts associate poor quality housing with many negative health outcomes, including chronic disease, injuries, and poor mental health.

For example, low quality home equipment and systems, such as heating, plumbing, and air conditioning, may increase the risk of exposure to carbon monoxide, lead, and airborne illnesses.

Typically, people from low income households are more likely to live in poorer quality housing, which can negatively impact their health. For instance, if a person lives in an overcrowded place, they may be at an increased risk of poorer mental health, food insecurity, and infectious diseases.

In addition, some people may not have the means to improve the safety and quality of certain systems and appliances. Consequently, they may not be able to adequately heat their home, which may lead to higher levels of blood pressure and result in a heart attack.

Moreover, homes of people from lower income households may be more susceptible to various types of damage that can affect health if not repaired. For example, water leaks may lead to mold growth, which can cause damage to respiratory health.

Research also notes the association between poor housing conditions and an increased risk of severe complications from COVID-19.

There are a number of key factors that can shape the effect housing may have on a person’s health. They are:

Quality and safety

Lower quality and safety of housing increases people’s risk of health problems. Potential health hazards in the home typically fall into four categories:

  • Biological: These include allergens from mold, rodents, and dust mites and may increase the risk of allergies, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses.
  • Chemical: These can include lead, asbestos, radon, and carbon monoxide. Exposure to these may lead to an increased likelihood of neurological complications, developmental disorders, cancer, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses.
  • Physical: Examples include improper ventilation, temperature control, and hazards that may cause injury. These may contribute toward physical injury, respiratory illness, asthma, and exposure to excessive heat or cold.
  • Social: This can include overcrowding, living in poverty, and fear of crime. Social health hazards may increase the risk of infectious diseases and poorer mental health outcomes.


Having access to safe, affordable, good quality housing can have a positive impact on a person’s health and well-being. High housing costs, on the other hand, can result in major sacrifices that can negatively impact health.

If housing is unaffordable, people may not be able to pay for necessities that support good health, such as nutritious food, regular healthcare visits, energy, and home maintenance.

Additionally, many cost-burdened households are present in high poverty areas and where racial disparities also exist. The State of the Nation’s Housing 2018 report notes that cost-burdened homes are more common among Black and Hispanic households.


Typically, lower income neighborhoods will have fewer amenities. As a result, residents of these neighborhoods are less likely to have access to transport, jobs, and good quality schools.

They are also at a greater risk of environmental exposure, have a lower chance of gaining financial stability, and face higher crime rates.

This can negatively affect health outcomes. For example, a 2020 article reports that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people living in lower income neighborhoods faced barriers that prevented them from staying safe. This then led to higher rates of complications due to COVID-19 in people from low income communities.

The link between lower neighborhood income and COVID-19 risk is also consistent with data showing a higher COVID-19 risk among racial and ethnic minorities.

Other research also notes that minorities who typically have a lower socioeconomic position often reside in low income neighborhoods due to a long history of discriminatory housing policy.


Quality, safety, affordability, and neighborhood can all influence housing stability. Without good housing and adequate support, people may risk experiencing housing instability and even becoming homeless.

According to one 2018 report, 83% of people experiencing homelessness were not chronically homeless, and many who go to shelters come from stable households.

People experiencing homelessness are at an increased risk of mental health conditions, infectious diseases, violence, and substance use, among other things.

Housing can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and mental health. Experts associate poor quality housing with a variety of negative health outcomes.

Many factors can affect the suitability of housing and therefore directly impact a person’s health. These include affordability, safety, stability, and location.

Health disparities still exist. That is why it is of paramount importance to promote health equity, which can then improve both housing quality and availability, benefitting public health.