Loss of “healthy life years”

Living with housing deficiencies is putting our children at risk. More than 37,000 years of disease-free life are lost because of diseases linked to unhealthy homes.

There is good and bad news in the Healthy Homes Barometer 2019. The good news is that the vast majority of European children are reported as being in “good” or “very good” health. The bad news is that the research also showed that their health could be in jeopardy due to issues like leaky roofs, dampness, rot in windows and lack of access to daylight at home.

Our analysis predicts that decreasing dampness and noise and increasing daylight access, could improve the health status of about 1.2 million children under the age of 15 in the European Union, who today report living with poor health.

The loss of healthy life years is measured using the World Health Organization metric known as Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY). This metric, DALY, expresses the number of years lost to ill-health, disability or early death by looking at the gap between the ideal health situation – where everyone lives in perfect health to standard life expectancy – and the current health status of a population.

Illustration of DALY

Years of disease-free life lost
DALYs combine the health burden associated with; a) mortality, the lifetime years lost because of premature death due to disease; and b) morbidity, the lifetime years living with serious illness that could have been spent living a healthy life.

Today, about 10-15 percent of new cases of childhood asthma in Europe can be attributed to indoor exposure to dampness and mould9. This exposure can be linked to more than 37,000 years of healthy life lost for European children.

To put this into perspective, WHO points at second-hand smoke as one of the most harmful exposure risks in the indoor environment. In terms of loss of ‘healthy’ life years, exposure to dampness and mould is about a third of the impact of harmful second-hand smoke.

Illustration of total disabillity adjusted life years
9 WHO Europe 2011 “Environmental burden of disease associated with inadequate housing”