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Housing conditions force allergy sufferers from homes

3 September 2015

Media Release

Housing conditions force allergy and asthma sufferers from homes

A quarter of Kiwis who suffer from asthma or allergies blame the condition of their home for aggravating their symptoms, a recent survey has revealed.

And asthma and allergy sufferers are more likely to have moved out of a home because the cold, damp and mouldy environment was making them sick.

The second HRV State of Home Survey, conducted by independent research company Buzz Channel, aims to bring attention to the poor state of New Zealand’s housing stock, whilst increasing awareness about the importance of a warm and dry home.

The survey also found almost half the population suffer from increased nasal stuffiness, irritated throats, sore eyes or wheezing during the winter months due to the levels of mould, condensation and dampness in the home.

Those on low incomes, living in rental properties, and students are particularly at risk with these groups all more likely to say their living conditions aggravate allergy and asthma symptoms.

And with the onset of spring the triggers inside the home for allergy and asthma sufferers will only get worse meaning adequate heating, cooling and ventilation solutions are needed to help improve indoor environmental conditions.

Mark Dixon, CEO of Allergy NZ, says conditions in the homes of allergy sufferers can dramatically affect their symptoms and lead to everything from chronic itching and nosebleeds to days off work and disrupting school attendance.

“Those living in sub-standard rental properties, such as students and low income families, are particularly at risk of their allergy and asthma symptoms escalating, and a huge part of that is simply because of the state of the homes they are living in.

“Allergy NZ is all about raising awareness of allergies and the burden on families. With more than half of New Zealand households affected by asthma and allergies, living in a dry, warm and healthy home is essential.”

Allergy New Zealand’s annual awareness campaign – the Allergy Season – started this month with a focus on hayfever in September, then in October attention turns to eczema, and November targets food allergies.

With Asthma Awareness Week currently under way, the survey also highlights the prevalence of condensation and mould in New Zealand homes which are both strong triggers for asthma.

More than 80% of NZ homes experience condensation at some time during the year, with 40% of asthma or allergy sufferers experiencing condensation in their home every morning during winter.

Dr Kyle Perrin, medical director of the Asthma Foundation says damp, mouldy and poorly heated housing is one of the leading contributors to the poor respiratory health of children in New Zealand.

Results from the HRV survey are reinforced by statistics from the latest Impact of Respiratory Disease in New Zealand Report which shows children in the low decile neighbourhoods, and from Pacific and Māori communities, are hugely overrepresented in hospital admissions due to respiratory disease.

In 2013, there were over 3000 admissions to hospital for bronchiolitis (a common respiratory infection in young children) from the poorest households, compared to just 300 among children in the wealthiest.

“Living in a dry, insulated home with enough income to heat it adequately should be a basic health standard for all New Zealanders, especially children, to ensure they have the best possible chance to live a healthy life,” says Dr Perrin.

“A major national investment needs to be made to improve the condition of New Zealand’s housing stock. Without significant improvements to housing standards thousands of Kiwi children will continue to be unnecessarily admitted to hospital for preventable respiratory conditions.”


Health, allergy and asthma

• 25% of those who suffer from asthma or allergies blame the condition of their home for aggravating their symptoms

• 40% of asthma and allergy sufferers have moved out of a home because the cold, damp and mouldy environment was making them sick

• Those on low incomes, living in rental properties, and students are more likely to say their living conditions aggravate allergy and asthma symptoms

• A quarter of people would like to live in a warmer, drier, healthier home and/or renovate or modernise their current home

Kiwis forced out of homes

• 26% of New Zealanders have moved out of a house because it was cold, damp and mouldy. Up from 20% in 2014

• 82% of homes experience condensation

• 65% of people throw more blankets on the bed to stay warm during winter rather than turning on a heater

School zones lower priority than dry heated homes

• Having insulation, double glazing, heat pump and ventilation is more important to people than a good school zone

• Top priority in life is saving up for a holiday (24%) followed by advancing their career (22%)

• 86% of Kiwis aged between 18-34 years old have a goal to own their own home

Damp homes a burden on NZ economy

• A third of Kiwis are concerned about the impact a damp, cold or mouldy home has on their family's health

• 37% of respondents had between 2 and 5 sick days in the last 12 months

• More than 50% of New Zealand households are affected by asthma and allergy

Renters worse off

• Renters have 4.7 sick days per year on average compared to overall average of 2.8 days

• Half of renters experience condensation every morning in winter

• Renters more likely than other groups to throw another blanket on the bed, wear warm socks and thermals to bed, and sleep with their heads under the duvet

Healthy home, healthy body, healthy mind

• Just over a quarter would like to be living in a warmer, drier, healthier home in the next five years

• 26% want to renovate and modernise their current home rather than move

Home ownership just a dream for many

• 62% believe it will be difficult to buy a house without financial help from family or friends

• 41% believe they are not at all likely to own a house in the next 3 to 5 years.

• 44% believe their parents are now expected to help their children buy their first home


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