s your house making you sick?
Is your house making you sick?
The poor state of New Zealand’s housing stock is contributing to the number of sick days people take each year and the estimated $1.38 billion cost* to the local economy, according to a new survey.
With mould prevalent in almost a third of New Zealand homes and half of the country’s rental accommodation, the HRV State of Home Survey has found more than a fifth of people had moved out of a home because of cold, damp or mouldy conditions.
Slightly less (14%) said the state of their home had contributed to theirs and their family’s sickness.
The survey of 1405 respondents, conducted by research company Buzz Channel, is the third undertaken by HRV to gain an insight into issues facing New Zealanders in their homes and communities.
Charles Crothers, Professor of Sociology at AUT, says on average New Zealanders took 3.1 sick days from work, school or other normal activity every year. However, those aged between 18-24 years old took a day and a half more on average (4.6 days) and renters 3.6 sick days.
This has an estimated cost to the New Zealand economy of $1.38 billion* which is comparable to the findings of the Wellness in the Workplace Report from 2013 where sick leave was projected to cost the local economy $1.26 billion per year.
“Ill health strikes people from many sources, but a major context in which illness develops, or is aggravated, is inside our homes and from the generally bad condition of much of New Zealand’s housing stock,” says Professor Crothers.
“The great shame is, to a large extent, that it’s entirely preventable.”
Teresa Demetriou, General Manager of Education and Research at Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ, says the link between cold, damp housing and respiratory disease is undeniable.
She says results from the State of Home Survey are supported by statistics from Te Hā Ora: National Respiratory Strategy which found more than half of the people admitted to hospital with a poverty-related condition are there because of a respiratory illness.
“Studies show that those living in the most deprived households have high and worsening rates of respiratory disease. But it is largely preventable, and by simply ensuring our most vulnerable have a dry and warm environment to live in we can reverse these statistics,” says Demetriou.
The State of Home Survey also found many workers around New Zealand don’t take sick days because it is frowned upon by their boss.
• Almost a fifth of Kiwi employees said their bosses disliked it when they took sick days
• 16% were required to provide a doctor’s certificate as proof of taking a legitimate sick day
• 47% get a flu jab each year, 44% don’t get a flu jab
• 38% of those who get a flu jab either have it paid by their employer or it is free / subsidised
• A fifth elected not to have it because “I don’t want it”
• 10% said the cost of the flu jab prevented them getting one
In general the survey shows Kiwis are a hardy bunch, with a third not taking a sick day in the last 12 months. However, the pain barrier of a hangover is unbearable for 3% of the population – that’s 138,000 of us – who confess to taking a sick day if they have a big night out.
Most don’t mind fighting the common cold, a headache, or sore stomach to go to work.
Some of the leading reasons for taking sick days include having food poisoning (65%) and the flu (65%), with around half of respondents taking days off for tummy bugs and viruses. A fifth of people stay home if they have a cold.
The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation is currently running its Breathe Better campaign, with a strong focus on the importance of a warm, dry home, and last year it also launched the National Respiratory Strategy to push for affordable, warm, dry and uncrowded homes for those in need.
“Current efforts are not working and we need a national approach in order to improve respiratory health for all New Zealanders,” says Demetriou.
*Estimate calculated based on average respondent taking 3.1 sick days and the average lost wage per respondent $743.15 per year (full time) and $513.53 per year (part time), which is based on average hourly earnings sourced from Statistics NZ.
KEY FINDINGS FROM THE HRV STATE OF HOME SURVEY 2016
|Sick days and the cost to the
|Number of sick days
taken each year costs the economy an estimated $1.38 billion
14% said the state of their home has contributed to theirs and their family’s sickness
On average New Zealanders took 3.1 sick days from work, school or other normal activity every year
Those aged between 18-24 years old took a day and a half more on average (4.6 days) and renters 3.6 sick days
Almost a fifth of Kiwi employees said their bosses disliked it when they took sick days
16% were required to provide a doctor’s certificate as proof of taking a legitimate sick day
47% get a flu jab each year, 44% don’t get a flu jab
A fifth elected not to have it because “I don’t want it”
10% said the cost of the flu jab prevented them getting one
A third of Kiwis have not taken a sick day in the last 12 months
14% – that’s around 138,000 Kiwis – have taken a sick day because they were hungover
65% take a sick day if they have food poisoning
65% take a sick day if they have the flu
Around half of respondents take days off for tummy bugs and viruses
A fifth of people stay home if they have a cold
worse off, landlords reluctant to help|
|A quarter of renters suffer from a cold
home and 20% live in houses that are difficult to heat|
39% of renters have contacted their landlord because their house was cold, damp or mouldy
Almost a third have moved out of a home for the same reasons
Nearly a quarter of landlords contacted by tenants discussed the issue but did nothing
A further 32% of landlords contacted by tenants either did not respond or said the house was fine
Renters use less expensive methods of staying warm in their homes with 29% using a hot water bottle, 53% sipping on a hot drink, 79% wrapping up in a blanket
Renters take an average of 3.6 sick days compared with homeowners who have an average of 3
40% of renters would like their landlord to make their property healthier
35% of landlords mainly focus their attention on damage repairs, with only 11% focusing on mould and dampness
20% of landlords spend less than $1000 a year on maintenance
|Mouldy, damp and cold NZ
New Zealanders have mould present in their home|
Almost half (48%) of the country’s rental accommodation has mould
30% of homes suffer from the cold, followed by 24% being difficult to heat and 22% being draughty
58% of people wrap themselves in a blanket or duvet whilst watching TV to keep warm
Just over one in five people have moved out of a house because it was cold, damp and mouldy
Two in five respondents would like to live in a warmer, drier, healthier home in the next five years, compared with just over a quarter in 2015
35% want to live in an energy efficient home
Insulation, double glazing, a heat pump and ventilation is more important to people than a good school zone
97% think insulation is the most important consideration when choosing a home
23% think solar power is important when considering a home to live in or renovating
*This survey was conducted by Buzz Channel with participants sourced from buzzthepeople online research panel of more than 20,000 New Zealanders. We surveyed N=1405 respondents who were between the age of 18 and 74 years. The margin of error on this sample is +/- 3.6% at the 95% confidence level.