Regional differences in residential environments and the association of dwellings and residential factors with the sick house syndrome: a nationwide cross-sectional questionnaire study in Japan

Indoor Air. 2009 Jun;19(3):243-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.2009.00589.x. Epub 2009 Jan 19.


This study was conducted to clarify regional differences in residential factors and the association of those factors with dwellings having sick house syndrome (SHS) problems. The survey was conducted in six areas of northern and southern Japan. In terms of regional differences, dampness was not as severe in the dwellings in Sapporo as compared with that in areas in the south. SHS was defined using five categories of nasal, throat and respiratory, skin and general symptoms, which appeared frequently or not frequently and improved upon leaving the home. The dampness index was estimated by the sum of the presence of several indicators: condensation on the window panes and/or wall, visible mold growth, moldy odor, slow-drying wet towels in the bathroom, and water leakage. The dwellings where inhabitants showed any symptoms of SHS comprised 3.7% of all surveyed dwellings. We found significant associations between SHS and dampness index, odors, and stuffiness of the air. For dampness, the adjusted odds ratio (OR) increased with increased dampness index, adjusting for the age of the house, pets indoors, stuffiness of the air, and odors. These results showed an increased risk when several dampness indicators appeared simultaneously.

Practical implications: To evaluate the associations of residential environments and Sick House Syndrome (SHS), this cross-sectional questionnaire study was conducted on 2297 dwellings in six areas in Japan from 2003 to 2004. The dwellings where inhabitants showed any of nasal, throat and respiratory, skin and general symptoms comprised 3.7% of all surveyed dwellings, and an increased risk for SHS was found when several dampness indicators, 'condensation', 'visible mold growth', 'moldy odor', 'slow drying wet towels in the bathroom' and 'water leakage', appeared simultaneously.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odorants
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Building Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Sick Building Syndrome / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ventilation