Study objective: To examine the association between damp housing and adult health, taking into account a wide range of other factors that may influence health and could confound this relation.
Participants and setting: A general population sample of adults, aged 18-64, from Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Northamptonshire.
Design: Secondary analysis of responses to a postal questionnaire survey carried out in 1997 with a 64% response rate (8889 of 13 800). Housing dampness was assessed by self report. Health was measured by responses to a series of questions including presence of asthma and longstanding illness generally, use of health services and perceived health status (the SF-36). The effect of damp was examined using the chi(2) test and one way analysis of variance. Significant associations with the various health outcomes were further explored taking into account 35 other housing, demographic, psychosocial and lifestyle variables using stepwise logistic and linear regression.
Main results: Bivariate analyses indicated that damp was associated with the majority of health outcomes. Regression modelling however, found that being unable to keep the home warm enough in winter was a more important explanatory variable. Worry about pressure at work and to a lesser extent about money, showed an independent association with perceived health status equal to or greater than that of the housing environment, including cold housing, and that of health related lifestyles.
Conclusions: This study shows that being unable to keep the home warm enough in winter is more strongly associated with health outcomes than is damp housing. However, as cold and damp housing are closely related, it is likely that their combined effects are shown in these results. The importance of worry as an independent predictor of health status needs testing in other studies. Its prevalence and relative importance suggest that it may be a significant determinant of public health.