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Can J Public Health. 2003 Nov-Dec;94(6):436-40.

The relationship between housing conditions and health status of rooming house residents in Toronto.

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Inner City Health Research Unit, St. Michael's Hospital, 30 Bond St., Toronto, ON M5B 1W8.



Rooming houses are an important source of housing for low-income Canadians. Little information is available on the relationship between housing conditions and health status in this vulnerable population.


Interviews were conducted with a representative sample of 295 residents in 171 rooming houses in Toronto. Health status was assessed using the SF-36. The physical attractiveness of each rooming house was rated using the Multiphasic Environmental Assessment Procedure. Associations between the health status of residents and the physical attractiveness and organizational characteristics of rooming houses were examined.


Rooming house residents aged 35 years and older had significantly poorer health status than their counterparts in the Canadian general population. Eight of the ten dimensions of individual health status assessed by the SF-36 were significantly correlated with the physical attractiveness of the rooming house in which the individual lived. However, there was no significant association between residents' health status and the rooming house's non-profit status, provision of meals, or the presence of an on-site landlord.


Rooming house residents suffer from a high prevalence of ill health. Residents reporting worst health are concentrated in rooming houses in the poorest physical condition. This relationship may be mediated by selection processes that place the sickest individuals in the lowest-quality rooming houses, and/or by a direct effect of adverse housing conditions on health status. Further research is needed to elucidate these processes and to improve the health of this vulnerable population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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