Housing Policies and Health Inequalities

Int J Health Serv. 2017 Apr;47(2):207-232. doi: 10.1177/0020731416684292. Epub 2016 Dec 28.


A large body of literature shows the link between inadequate housing conditions and poor physical and mental health. The aim of this paper is to summarize the research on the impact of local housing policies on health inequalities, focusing on the issues of access to housing and fuel poverty as studied in the SOPHIE project. Our case studies in Spain showed that people facing housing insecurity, experienced intense levels of mental distress. We found that access to secure and adequate housing can improve the health of these populations, therefore, public policies that address housing instability and their consequences are urgently needed. Housing conditions related to fuel poverty are associated with poorer health and are unevenly distributed across Europe. We found possible positive effects of façade insulation interventions on cold-related mortality in women living in social housing; but not in men. Policies on housing energy efficiency can reduce the health consequences of fuel poverty, but need to be free to users, target the most vulnerable groups and be adaptable to their needs.

Keywords: cold housing; energy efficiency; evaluation studies; eviction; foreclosure; fuel poverty; housing affordability; housing instability; mental health; mortality; retrofitting; self-related health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Heating*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Disorders / mortality
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control
  • Public Housing*
  • Public Policy*
  • Spain / epidemiology