Prof. Ronan Lyons – Swansea University
Poor-quality housing has been shown to have negative effects on residents’ health with cold houses thought to cause 33% of respiratory and 40% of cardiovascular diseases. There are an estimated 12.8 excess deaths per 100,000 occur due to living in inadequately heated houses. Currently, however, there is a very little high-quality evidence to support this.
The research team, which included a number of NCPHWR researchers from Swansea University, explored whether making upgrades to council housing and bringing housing up to a national quality standard could relieve the pressure on the NHS.
The researcher team worked with data from 8,558 council house residents in Carmarthenshire, between 2007 and 2016. Residents received improvements to their homes, including new heating and electrical systems, wall and loft insulation, new kitchens and bathrooms, windows and doors, and garden paths.
Hospital admission data were linked to information provided by Carmarthenshire County Council on each of the homes that received improvements. Researchers then compared the number of hospital admissions for tenants who lived in homes with the improvements to those whose homes had not yet been improved.
The team found substantial decreases in the number of hospital admissions for those in the improved homes. Findings showed a substantial decrease of up to 39% in emergency admissions for cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. This was for tenants aged 60 years and over, but there were similar results for all ages. Prescribed asthma medications and GP visits also dropped for residents of all ages.
Researchers have shown that making home improvements to social housing can help to considerably reduce emergency hospital admissions. Importantly, this study provides a robust evidence base and can be used to inform local governments and policymakers – demonstrating that improvements to housing can have significant positive impacts on society, the economy and public health. For further information on the research visit: https://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/phr/phr06080#/abstract