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Exploring the Housing and Household Energy Pathways to Stress: A Mixed Methods Study

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ABSTRACT

Chronic stress, known to contribute to negative physical and mental health outcomes, is closely associated with broader issues of material hardship, poor neighborhood conditions, residential instability, and inadequate housing conditions. However, few studies have comprehensively explored pathways to stress in a low-income housing environment. A mixed-methods pilot study investigated the concept of energy insecurity by looking at the impacts of weatherization and energy efficiency interventions on low-income households in the South Bronx neighborhood of New York City. In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 low-income heads of household; participants also completed health, housing and budget assessments. Physical deficiencies, economic hardship, and health issues all interacted to directly and indirectly produce living conditions that contribute to chronic stress. Households with higher stress reported more health problems. Poor quality housing led to coping responses that increased expenses, which in turn increased stress around housing and energy affordability. This study provides further support for the connections between both health and the built environment and between low socio-economic status populations and net negative health outcomes. Energy insecurity is an important contributor to chronic stress in low-income households, and isolating pathways to stress where there is potential for interventions is important for future policy and housing-based strategies.

No MeSH data available.


Housing, energy and health pathways to stress.
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ijerph-13-00916-f001: Housing, energy and health pathways to stress.

Mentions: Perceived Stress. The mean PSS score among participants was 12.5 (SD = 8.61), with the highest score being 27 and the lowest being 0 (the possible range is 0–40, with 0 representing no perceived stress). This mean score falls within the range reported in several national surveys that utilized the PSS [36]. In our sample, the PSS analysis identified several variables that were associated with higher perceived stress. Triangulating this quantitative data with themes revealed in the qualitative analysis, we observed three main pathways to stress including: (1) Physical deficiencies (pertaining to quality of building conditions and heating systems); (2) Economic hardship (housing and utility expenses); and (3) Health issues (physical and mental health). As depicted in Figure 1, some variables were more directly associated with stress while others represented associations between one or more factors leading to stress.


Exploring the Housing and Household Energy Pathways to Stress: A Mixed Methods Study
Housing, energy and health pathways to stress.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5036749&req=5

ijerph-13-00916-f001: Housing, energy and health pathways to stress.
Mentions: Perceived Stress. The mean PSS score among participants was 12.5 (SD = 8.61), with the highest score being 27 and the lowest being 0 (the possible range is 0–40, with 0 representing no perceived stress). This mean score falls within the range reported in several national surveys that utilized the PSS [36]. In our sample, the PSS analysis identified several variables that were associated with higher perceived stress. Triangulating this quantitative data with themes revealed in the qualitative analysis, we observed three main pathways to stress including: (1) Physical deficiencies (pertaining to quality of building conditions and heating systems); (2) Economic hardship (housing and utility expenses); and (3) Health issues (physical and mental health). As depicted in Figure 1, some variables were more directly associated with stress while others represented associations between one or more factors leading to stress.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Chronic stress, known to contribute to negative physical and mental health outcomes, is closely associated with broader issues of material hardship, poor neighborhood conditions, residential instability, and inadequate housing conditions. However, few studies have comprehensively explored pathways to stress in a low-income housing environment. A mixed-methods pilot study investigated the concept of energy insecurity by looking at the impacts of weatherization and energy efficiency interventions on low-income households in the South Bronx neighborhood of New York City. In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 low-income heads of household; participants also completed health, housing and budget assessments. Physical deficiencies, economic hardship, and health issues all interacted to directly and indirectly produce living conditions that contribute to chronic stress. Households with higher stress reported more health problems. Poor quality housing led to coping responses that increased expenses, which in turn increased stress around housing and energy affordability. This study provides further support for the connections between both health and the built environment and between low socio-economic status populations and net negative health outcomes. Energy insecurity is an important contributor to chronic stress in low-income households, and isolating pathways to stress where there is potential for interventions is important for future policy and housing-based strategies.

No MeSH data available.