Should our homes carry health warnings or health labels? A new survey published today demonstrates that Brits are largely unaware of the significant health risks posed by spending too much time indoors in unhealthy homes.
Whether we like it or not, we are the so-called “Indoor Generation”. On average, people spend 90% of their time indoors, yet many of us are not aware of the risks associated with our indoor environments. A new study by YouGov for the VELUX Group asked 16,000 members of the public in 14 countries across Europe and North America about their perceptions of indoor living.
Firstly, we think we spend less time indoors than we actually do. The perception across those surveyed in Britain is that 78% of people believe they spend less than 21 hours indoors each day, with 53% thinking they actually spend less than 18 hours inside. The actual figure is people spend 90% of their time indoors (more than 21 hours).
And, at a time when urban pollution is top of mind for many people, 62% are not aware that in actual fact, indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air, with kids’ bedrooms often among the most polluted rooms in the house.
Dr Hilary Jones GP & Health Broadcaster said: “The rapid change in our lifestyle from spending large amounts of time outdoors for work or relaxation to becoming an Indoor Generation carries with it several risks, not least when it comes to health in dark, poorly ventilated homes.
“Poor ventilation can lead to damp or mould in the home and can trigger asthmatic symptoms – and it is worrying that the most polluted rooms tend to be the children’s – with asthma more common in younger people.
“Right now, more than five million people in the UK have asthma, the majority of which are children, and more than 20 per cent of the UK will at one time in their life have a long-term lung condition, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
“Equally we must make sure that we’re getting the light exposure that we need in order to protect our immune systems. Many of us do not realise that lack of light can affect our sleep patterns and in turn increase our risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.
“We don’t want to alarm people – instead we want them to be aware of the impact our lifestyle choices are making and help them to make simple changes for the better. There are small steps to make the air inside your home or office healthier, such as opening windows to allow fresh air in, particularly when bathing or cooking and cleaning regularly to keep allergens – such as dust mites – in check.
“And when it comes to daylight – the best tonic is to get outside and expose ourselves to natural daylight on a daily basis, if this isn’t possible then try to sit by the window when indoors. Not only will this lift your mood, but it will also help you to sleep better, which leads to enhanced concentration and improved general health and immunity.”
Everyday home life activities, such as cooking, cleaning, showering, lighting candles, drying clothes – even sleeping and breathing, all contribute to polluted indoor air, which over time can cause the development of illnesses.
Indeed, it is thought that more children will suffer from asthma or allergies in the coming years unless we act now to ensure that the design of our homes and public buildings is improved in order to tackle the problem we face with indoor pollution, and the amount of time the Indoor Generation spends inside.
Dr Russell Foster, Head of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology and the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, University of Oxford, said: “From the year 1800 to 2000, we’ve gone from 90% of people working outside to less than 20%. In a very short space of time, we’ve gone from being an outdoor species to spending most of our time in dim, dark caves.”
“We know instinctively that spending so many hours in stuffy places isn’t good for us,” says Peter Foldbjerg, head of daylight energy and indoor climate at VELUX. “According to research, living in damp and mouldy homes increases our risk of asthma by 40% and leaves us vulnerable to developing other ailments.”
Foldbjerg continues: “With the pressures of modern life we are all now firmly a part of the Indoor Generation and we need to understand the implications on our health and wellbeing of life indoors, as well as outdoors, when it comes to polluted air.
“We are a 24/7 society and this has disconnected us from the natural rhythms of nature – our circadian rhythm, a neurophysiological term for the 24-hour body clock that anticipates and adapts our physiology to the different phases of the day, sleep and wake cycle. All of this impacts our sleep quality and general health.
“Fortunately, there are plenty of steps you can take straight away to make the home a much fresher, brighter and healthier place for you and your family. By just opening windows three to four times a day, not burning candles excessively, trying our best to dry clothes outside whenever possible (or by opening a window if indoor drying is a must), keeping bathroom doors closed whilst bathing and ventilating from the outside, and reducing our use of chemical based cleaning products. All these tips can help reduce the level of pollutants present in your home.”
To illustrate these risks, the VELUX Group today launches a short film about the “Indoor Generation”. Narrated by a young girl, the film leads viewers through a history of indoor living that has ended up with dark, sealed buildings, which often have unhealthy levels of moisture, bacteria and chemical pollutants present in the air. The result is that we increasingly struggle with coughs, colds and other respiratory illnesses, bad sleep, lack of energy, moodiness, poor concentration and other ailments. But, as our narrator tells us, it’s up to us to decide how the story ends. Watch here to find out more.
The new film, produced by the VELUX Group in collaboration with the &Co creative agency, was shot on location in the United Kingdom and Denmark and is directed by award-winning filmmaker Martin de Thurah.
Martin de Thurah, film director explains: “Engaging people on a global level means working with universal insights. It has been exciting to be part of telling this important story, and I hope the film will engage people in the subject, but also activate them.
It is time we re-think the way we live indoors and do everything we can to ensure homes are healthy places to live.
Here are six simple steps to make the air inside your home healthier:
- Open your windows three to four times a day to allow fresh air in
- Keep bathroom doors closed and turn on the extractor fan or open a window when showering
- Turn hood fan on when cooking and open your windows
- Don’t burn candles
- Dry clothes outside
- Clean regularly
Find out more at: https://www.velux.co.uk/indoorgeneration