High rise health risks for children living in council flats

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Poor living conditions in council flats contribute towards social, emotional and behavioural difficulties in children, according to new research from the UCL Institute of Education.

Children growing up in flats were also found to have more trouble sleeping and a higher rate of coughing episodes than those living in houses.

Author Bilal Nasim, of the UCL Institute of Education, analysed information from nearly 1,500 mothers and their children, who were born in 1991-92 and are being followed by the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

When their children were three years old, mothers living in social housing flats reported lower bedroom and living room temperatures, greater levels of damp and mould, and higher levels of dissatisfaction with their homes compared to mothers living in houses.

However, Nasim pointed out that children living in council flats performed no worse in their Key Stage 1 exams compared to their peers living in council houses.

“Previous research has mostly compared the living conditions of social housing tenants with those of private renters. However, this research shows that children living in different types of social housing do not always exhibit the same level of development in their early years,” Nasim explains.

“A significant part of the reason for this is because children living in council flats experience poorer quality housing than those living in council houses.”

“Studying the differences between the living conditions of renters in different types of social housing is certainly a relevant issue for future government policy.

“These differences, and the emotional, behavioural and health problems experienced by children living in flats, should ideally be accounted for when deciding on the building of new affordable social housing,” Nasim concludes.

More information

Read the full paper ‘The association between social housing type and children’s developmental outcomes’ by Bilal Nasim (2015).