Healthy Homes Barometer 2019

The Healthy Homes Barometer is a yearly publication that draws on the results of a series of Pan-European surveys to investigate the link between buildings and health throughout Europe.

In previous years, the Healthy Homes Barometer has looked at how adults are impacted by the state of the European building stock. This year’s edition turns its attention towards one of the most vulnerable groups of society and investigates how unhealthy buildings affect the health, wellbeing and learning abilities of our children. The Healthy Homes Barometer 2019 also goes on to look at the importance of creating home and school environments where children can thrive.

Are our homes making our children sick?

In previous Healthy Homes Barometers, we learned that 1 out of 6, or around 80 million, European adults live in unhealthy homes, which is in itself a surprisingly high number. This year’s barometer finds that the situation for the youngest members of society is even more severe. Today, 1 out of 3 European children – equal to over 26 million or more than the entire population of Scandinavia – live in unhealthy homes.

Victims of unhealthy homes

Housing deficiencies like dampness, darkness, cold temperatures and excess noise can contribute negatively to our children’s health, regardless of where they live and their social background.


However, some are more at risk than others. Children from low-income families and children living in suburban single-family homes are more likely to live in homes with housing deficiencies. In turn, these children are especially vulnerable to the health effects associated with having a bad indoor climate.

Loss of “healthy life years”

Living with housing deficiencies is putting our children at risk. Today, about 10 - 15 percent of new cases of childhood asthma in Europe can be attributed to exposure to dampness and mould indoors . This exposure can be linked to more than 37.000 years of healthy, disease-free life lost.

Nearly two million empty desks

Children are not only losing years of healthy living. They are also losing out on their education. Each year, diseases related to unhealthy buildings are responsible for European children missing 1.7 million school days. Children’s education is not the only thing that is hurt by these illnesses. Parents of sick children are also experiencing a severe impact on their careers.


Just like in the home, poor indoor climate in schools and day-care centers is linked to serious health conditions. On the flip side, good air quality is linked to better performance. Studies show that improved air quality could boost student performance by up to 15 percent, with a positive effect on working speed, attention level, and concentration.

Healthier homes and schools for healthier economies

Enhanced ventilation in European schools could lead to substantial economic benefits. Improving ventilation in European schools could lead to an increase of European GDP of nearly €250 billion. Eradicating mold and dampness in all European homes could lead to an economic gain of €55 billion for the European economy. Thus, improving the indoor climate of the places where our children spend most of their time will not only be beneficial to their health, it could also boost the European economy by more than €300 billion.

1 WHO Europe 2011 “Environmental burden of disease associated with inadequate housing”
2 Fraunhofer-Institut für Bauphysik IBP, 2015, “Impact of the indoor environment on learning in schools in Europe”