Overcrowded homes have helped spread Covid-19 in England and may have increased the number of deaths, according to research by the Health Foundation.
People living in crowded conditions have been more exposed to the coronavirus and were less able to reduce their risk of infection because their homes were so small, the expert group found. Overcrowding is one of the key reasons why the poorest people and those from ethnic minorities in particular have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, he said.
Researchers at the Health Foundation also concluded that overcrowding, along with other housing problems, such as humidity and unsafe leases, had led to an increase in physical and mental health problems.
“Since March, many of us have spent much more time at home. For many, the quality of their home has made the pandemic experience even worse than it should have been, ”said Adam Tinson, co-author of the analysis and senior analyst at the thinktank.
“While some have resisted confinement in large houses with gardens and plenty of space to live, others have struggled in unsafe and overcrowded conditions. Overcrowding is associated with the spread of Covid-19, which makes self-isolation difficult and allows the virus to spread to more people if one becomes infected. “
Data for 2019-20 released earlier this month showed that just before the pandemic in March, 830,000 homes in England were overcrowded, especially rented properties. That was 200,000 more than the number in that situation a decade earlier.
“People’s living environments have affected their ability to protect themselves and others from Covid-19. People have been encouraged to stay in their homes as much as possible, but transmission within the home has played an important role in the spread of the virus, ”says the analysis.
“Overcrowding, which has been increasing in the years leading up to the pandemic, makes it more difficult to isolate and protect yourself, and may have contributed to higher death rates in the poorest areas.”
He added that 8% of households with the lowest incomes lived in overcrowded households, compared with less than 1% of those with the highest incomes.
Similarly, “ethnic minority households are five times more likely to be overcrowded than white households, illustrating just one of the ways that existing housing disparities are combining with the pandemic to further widen inequalities in Health”.
People who were forced to spend more time in overcrowded homes during the various closures this year have also caused or worsened mental health problems, especially those suffering from distress. “Distress is generally higher for overcrowded households, and data from the pandemic period appears to show that this intensified during the most severe shutdown in April 2020, when 39% of people in overcrowded households indicated psychological distress.” , compared with 29% of those whose homes were not overcrowded, the analysis concludes.
“This analysis shows that poor mental health has been a particular problem for those who lived in overcrowded homes during the pandemic, especially in the first lockdown. The chronic lack of affordable housing options, combined with years of reductions in housing cost support, has brought us to this point, ”Tinson said.
Restrictions on movement and social mixing have also deepened loneliness among those who live alone, according to the report.
Major changes in housing policy, such as safer private leases, reversing cuts in housing benefits and building more social housing, are needed to reduce the impact of poor-quality housing on people’s health, recommends the Health Foundation.
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