Effects of household crowding on respiratory infectious diseases

Added April 5, 2020

Citation: Shannon H, Allen C, Clarke M, et al. Web Annex A. Report of the systematic review on the effect of household crowding on health. In: WHO Housing and health guidelines. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018 (WHO/CED/PHE/18.02). Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

What is this? The COVID- 19 pandemic has led to large numbers of people having to stay at home. Depending on the number of occupants and the dwelling space available, this can lead to household crowding, which can increase the transmission of respiratory infectious diseases.

This systematic review was used to inform the 2018 WHO guidelines on Housing and Health. For the sub-section on respiratory infectious diseases other than tuberculosis, the authors searched for articles published in English between 2004 and 2018 on household crowding and these diseases. They did their most recent searches in March 2018. They identified 14 cross-sectional studies, 6 case-control studies, 5 cohort studies and 5 ecological studies.

What was found: Household crowding was associated with increased risks of respiratory infectious diseases, such as flu-related hospitalizations and illnesses, pneumonia, acute respiratory illness and respiratory syncytial virus.

What’s uncertain: It was not possible to draw definitive conclusions on each of the respiratory infectious diseases, due to the low number of studies.


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