The amount of time people spend indoors has increased tremendously, especially due to businesses’ transition to remote work. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency has found the average American spends 90% of their time inside, surrounded by pollutants that can be 2 to 5 times more concentrated than those found outdoors.
If you’re concerned about how your health is being affected by your home, here are some factors to consider:
It may come as a surprise, but allergies can be triggered indoors as much as they are outdoors. In addition to the obvious culprits, pet hair and dust, mold spores can grow from water-damaged materials causing allergic reactions and often worsening asthma (amongst other illnesses). If there’s long-term toxic mold exposure, people will start experiencing insomnia, memory loss, trouble concentrating, etc.
Allergens can be combated by fixing leaks and excess moisture in the home. Some beneficial changes to adopt include swapping out carpeting for hardwood, opting for washable rugs and curtains, decluttering, and choosing small-particle air filters. Making sure that your pets stay out of the bedroom and allergy-friendly mattress and pillow casings can also be worthwhile preventative measures.
2. Air Quality
Another part of your home that’s often linked to adverse health conditions is air quality. If you have low-quality home appliances and systems, like heating, plumbing, and air conditioning, you should be aware of potentially harmful exposures to carbon monoxide, lead, and airborne illnesses. If your appliances are not properly ventilated, and you’re burning gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal, etc. indoors, carbon monoxide may invade your space and lead to serious and potentially dire health issues.
The age of your house is also an important factor to consider when weighing the health risks of a home. If your house was built between 1920 and 1978, you may want to investigate whether or not asbestos was used as insulation. Exposure to asbestos in large doses can increase the risks of cancer and lung disease. In a house built after 1978, you may want to test for lead poisoning in the paint, as this was commonplace and now affects hundreds of thousands of children each year. If you’re ever experiencing concerning symptoms of any kind, make sure to express that to a medical professional or at a primary care visit as soon as possible.
3. Lighting and Organization
Natural light is the best way for your skin and body to absorb vitamin D, and ensuring you’re getting enough of this nutrient throughout your day is crucial; in turn, it’ll work to strengthen bones, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and decrease cancer cell growth. The natural light in a home is closely tied to melatonin production and can also affect circadian rhythm, which means our sleep cycles are better aligned with sunrise and sunset. This, in turn, helps our focus, productivity, mood, and overall happiness.
Painting your walls a lighter color or adding some mirrors can help brighten up a room and bounce light around. Another aspect of your home that can affect your mood and mental health is its layout and organization. It can be anxiety-inducing to constantly dig through clutter or deal with a mess after work. Clean, tidy spaces will look good but feel even better; after all, everyone deserves to be comfortable and at ease in their own home.
4. Housing Situation
Poor-quality housing is known to be linked with comparatively worse health conditions, like chronic disease and bad mental health. If you’re struggling with the quality of your housing, you may want to consider moving and securing a mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration, as FHA loans have looser financial requirements. If you’re really struggling to make ends meet, exploring more affordable housing options may alleviate some regular financial burdens and lead you to healthier and safer housing.
Whatever your housing situation may be, it’s important to remain aware that physical illnesses surrounding your environment can largely affect your mental health and quality of life. A home should contribute positively to your well-being, rather than cause feelings of stress or hopelessness. If you’re struggling with any of these, consulting a mental health specialist will ensure that you’re prioritizing your feelings and taking strides to improve your well-being.
Nisha Jackson is a nationally recognized hormone and functional medicine expert, renowned lecturer, motivational speaker, radio host, columnist, author of the bestseller “Brilliant Burnout,” and founder of OnePeak Medical Clinics in Oregon. For 30 years, her approach to medicine has successfully reversed chronic problems such as fatigue, brain fog, depression, insomnia, and lack of stamina.
This story was originally published in the OnePeak Medical Center’s Blog.