Household Overcrowding and Mental Well-being: Better Safe than Sorry

Produced by: 
Universidad de Chile
Available from: 
May 2020
Paper author(s): 
Jaime Ruiz-Tagle
Ignacio Urria
Topic: 
Poverty - Inequality - Aid Effectiveness
Year: 
2020

It has been widely documented that household overcrowding over time negatively affects mental health. However, scant evidence documents this dynamic relationship in the low- and middle- income countries of Latin America, where housing issues remain a relevant policy issue. Employing a nationally representative panel dataset of 10,024 Chilean households, we examine whether variation in household overcrowding levels between 2006 and 2009 is associated with the prevalence of depressive symptoms in 2009. We find that an increase in household overcrowding levels (due to a reduction in the number of bedrooms) is associated with an increase in depressive symptoms, while a constant or decreasing trajectory of household overcrowding over time is not associated with changes in depressive symptoms. These results suggest an asymmetric relationship between household density and mental health over a three-year window and support the implementation of preventive rather than corrective housing policies to address overcrowding.

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