Housing and Quality of Life: An Ecological Perspective

  • G. Nelson
  • S. Saegert


In this chapter, we provide a framework for understanding and improving housing and quality of life (QOL). We begin by reviewing different approaches to the study of QOL, including the  social indicators approach and the assessment of objective life conditions, subjective well-being, and  positive psychological and social functioning. Adopting an  ecological perspective, we show that QOL can be conceptualized at multiple levels of analysis ranging from the macro-system (the good society), to the meso-system (the good life), to the individual (well-being), and we note the correspondence between these levels and the different approaches to the study of QOL. The first part of the review of the literature on housing and QOL focuses on linkages between the macro-level and the meso-level and between the meso-level and the individual. We show that the macro-level conditions of poverty, racism, and declining  social capital are associated with reduced access to high quality housing, and that the meso-level conditions of  homelessness,  housing quality,  housing choice, and  extra-housing factors (e.g., neighborhood qualities, social support) are related to individual well-being. The second part of the review examines programs and policies to improve housing and QOL. Research has shown that comprehensive housing and support programs have proven to be more effective in improving the QOL of individuals than more narrowly focused programs. Unfortunately, recent housing policies in Canada and the U.S. have not adequately supported comprehensive housing programs and, in fact, have led to an increase in the homeless population. Various advocacy efforts that are currently underway to improve housing policy are described.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide a way of thinking about and improving housing and quality of life (QOL). We begin with an overview of the various approaches to the study of QOL. Next, we introduce an ecological framework to conceptualize housing and QOL and review literature on this topic in terms of this framework. In the following section we consider programs and policies designed to improve housing and QOL. While we touch on many different health issues in this review, we pay particular attention to mental health, as there has been a great deal of research on housing and QOL with people with mental health issues. As shown in Table 194‐1 , there have been 17 reviews of the literature dealing with housing and mental health, and 14 of those reviews have been published since 1997. We conclude with recommendations for future research and action


Life Satisfaction Social Capital Assertive Community Treatment Housing Policy Affordable Housing 

List of Abbreviations:


 assertive community treatment


acquired immune deficiency syndrome


effect size


human immunodeficiency virus


Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development


quality of life


 randomized controlled trials


socio-economic status


sexually transmitted diseases


subjective well-being


United Kingdom


United States


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© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Nelson
  • S. Saegert

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