Indicators at a glance - indoor environment

This section summarises the latest Environmental Health Indicators about the indoor environment and health in New Zealand. 

Summary

A poor indoor environment can affect our health through a range of ways.

  • Cold, damp, mouldy housing is linked to respiratory illness, asthma, rheumatic fever and excess winter deaths.
  • Household crowding increases the risk of infectious diseases.
  • Second-hand smoke can cause respiratory illnesses, middle ear infections, sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) and low birth weight in children, and ischaemic heart disease, stroke and lung cancer in non-smoking adults. 

Young children and the elderly are particularly at risk from the effects of poor housing.

Indicator Key findings
Home heating
  • In 2013, almost 45,000 houses had no source of home heating. This had increased from 33,200 houses in 2006.
Health and cold damp houses
  • Health conditions linked to cold and damp houses include respiratory conditions (asthma, bronchiolitis, pneumonia) and rheumatic fever.
Household crowding
  • About 390,000 New Zealanders (10.4%) lived in a crowded household in 2006. Children and people of Māori and Pacific ethnicity are the most affected by household crowding.
Health and household crowding
  • Household crowding increases the risk of infectious diseases, particularly in children.
  • Each year, about 1343 hospital admissions for infectious diseases are attributable to household crowding. 
  • Children most affected by infectious diseases in New Zealand include infants, Māori and Pacific children, and children living in the most deprived areas. 
Second-hand smoke exposure
  • In 2012/13, over 150,000 children and non-smoking adults were exposed to second-hand smoke in their home.
Health and second-hand smoke
  • Second-hand smoke exposure increases the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), asthma, lower respiratory tract infections, and otitis media in children.
  • In adults, second-hand smoke exposure increases the risk of ischaemic heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.