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