Study shows how unhealthy homes and schools negatively impact children’s health and learning
An alarming 26 million – or 1 out of 3 - children in Europe live in unhealthy homes, with deficiencies like dampness or mould, darkness, excess noise and cold. If exposed to all four factors, children are four times more likely to suffer from poor health and their learning is negatively impacted.
These are some of the findings in the 2019 edition of the Healthy Homes Barometer, the fifth annual study launched by the VELUX Group, which this year focuses on some of the most vulnerable members of society - children. It finds that children living with unhealthy indoor climates are significantly more likely to report eczema, coughing, wheezing, asthma, allergies and poor respiratory health.
This can impact students’ education, with the effect being increased absence from school. Furthermore, there are negative consequences for society that go beyond children’s health and learning and impact the economy. Productivity is reduced through work loss as adults care for their sick children.
- 1 out of 3 European children, or 26 million, live in unhealthy buildings
- Children living with four risk factors (dampness or mould, darkness, noise and cold) are 4.2 times more likely to report poor health
- European children could miss nearly two million days of school each year because of health problems related to buildings with deficiencies
- Improved air quality can boost student performance (task solving) by up to 15%.
Children are not only experiencing health issues due to poor indoor climates; they are also losing out on their education. The conditions that are linked to living in unhealthy homes are responsible for nearly two million missed school days. On average, this means about 2.5 missed school days per sick child per year because of illnesses associated with an unhealthy indoor climate.
I believe children have the right to grow up in an environment that is good for their health and well-being. To safeguard this right, it is our responsibility to ensure that the homes they grow up in and the schools they learn in have good indoor climates to support their development,
Healthier homes and schools for healthier economies
Improving ventilation in schools and reducing exposure to dampness or mould in Europe’s homes will not only benefit children’s health, it could also boost the European economy cumulatively by more than EUR 300 billion by 2060. On top of that, there can be additional economic advantages to reducing noise exposure, increasing daylight access and improving indoor temperature.
Decarbonising Europe’s building stock is crucial for achieving our climate and sustainability goals, and when doing so we must ensure that buildings also become safe and healthy places for our children to grow up in. This year’s barometer shows us that modernising our buildings results not only in economic gains from reduced energy bills, it also gives a substantial boost to the European economy by solving building deficiencies that harm our children’s health,
Suburban and low-income disadvantages
It is not only children living in urban homes who are at most risk. Suburban areas are also affected, with single family homes especially vulnerable to health effects associated with having a poor indoor climate. This is particularly concerning as suburban growth in Europe has significantly outpaced urban growth, with urbanisation up 30% and suburban growth up 47% from 1961-2011. Furthermore, children from low-income families are more likely to suffer health risks, with those in the lower 20% on the household income scale being nearly 25% more likely to live in homes with deficiencies.
The Healthy Homes Barometer 2019 looks beyond the four walls of the home and examines the places where our children spend a huge amount of their time – schools. The study shows how important improving indoor climates in classrooms is to ensure that children get the most out of their education.The Healthy Homes Barometer is a series of pan-European surveys designed to investigate the link between homes and health. The first edition of the Healthy Homes Barometer was published in 2015.
This is the fifth edition published by the VELUX Group. This year’s barometer was compiled using a new analysis of the material in the EU SILC and EUROSTAT databases, which was carried out by the research institute RAND Europe, a not-for-profit policy research organisation. All of RAND Europe’s research was peer-reviewed in accordance with RAND’s quality assurance standards. This work informs the public good and should not be taken as a commercial endorsement.
Download the Healthy Homes Barometer 2019
Download the RAND Europe report
About the VELUX Group
For more than 75 years, The VELUX Group has created better living environments for people around the world; making the most of daylight and fresh air through the roof. Our product programme includes roof windows and modular skylights, decorative blinds, sun screening products and roller shutters, as well as installation and smart home solutions. These products help to ensure a healthy and sustainable indoor climate, for work and learning, for play and pleasure. We work globally – with sales and manufacturing operations in more than 40 countries and around 11,500 employees worldwide. The VELUX Group is owned by VKR Holding A/S, a limited company wholly owned by non-profit, charitable foundations (THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS) and family. In 2018, VKR Holding had total revenue of EUR 2.6 billion and THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS donated EUR 118 million in charitable grants. For more, information, visit www.velux.com.