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According to the World Health Organisation, overcrowding refers to the situation in which more people are living within a single dwelling than there is space for, so that movement is restricted, privacy secluded, hygiene impossible, rest and sleep difficult. The terms crowding and overcrowding are often used interchangeably to refer to the same condition. The effects on quality of life due to crowding may be due to children sharing a bed or bedroom, increased physical contact, lack of sleep, lack of privacy, poor hygiene practises and an inability to care adequately for sick household members.[1] While population density is an objective measure of number of people living per unit area, overcrowding refers to people's psychological response to density. But, definitions of crowding used in statistical reporting and for administrative purposes are based on density measures and do not usually incorporate people’s perceptions of crowding.

Standards for overcrowding[edit]

World Health Organization[edit]

The standards for overcrowding as defined by the World Health Organization is as follows:

The room standard[edit]

The room standard is contravened when the number of persons sleeping in a dwelling and the number of rooms available as sleeping accommodation is such that two persons of opposite sexes who are not living together as husband and wife must sleep in the same room. For this purpose, children under the age of ten shall be left out of account, and a room is available as sleeping accommodation if it is of a type normally used in the locality either as a bedroom or as a living room.[2][not in citation given]

Floor space[edit]

The WHO accepted standards for floor space are:

Area (in sq. metre) No. of persons
11 or more 2 persons
9 to 10 1.5 persons
7 to 9 1 person
5 to 7 0.5 person
Under 5 Nil

A baby under 12 months is not counted, and children between 1 to 10 years are counted as half a unit.

Sex separation[edit]

Overcrowding is considered to exist if two persons over 9 years of age, not husband and wife, of opposite sexes are obliged to sleep in the same room.

European Union[edit]

Eurostat uses a stricter definition of overcrowding. An overcrowded household is defined as one which has fewer rooms than the sum of:[3]

  • one room for the household;
  • one room per couple in the household;
  • one room for each single person aged 18 or more;
  • one room per pair of single people of the same gender between 12 and 17 years of age;
  • one room for each single person between 12 and 17 years of age and not included in the previous category;
  • one room per pair of children under 12 years of age.

For example, a household of a single person living alone is considered overcrowded unless he or she has a living room which is separate from the bedroom (points 1 and 3 apply).

According to Eurostat, in 2011, 17.1% of EU population lived in overcrowded households by the above definition, with the number varying strongly between countries: the overcrowding rate stood at 43.1% in 12 newest member states compared to only 10.1% in 15 oldest members.[4]

Risks due to overcrowding[edit]

  • Physical : Spread of infectious diseases
  • Psychological : Frustration, anxiety
  • Social : Violence
  • High morbidity and mortality[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gray, Allison. "Definitions of crowding and the effect of crowding on health". Ministry of Social Policy. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "Definition for overcrowding". Welsh Housing Advice Guide. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  3. ^ http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Glossary:Overcrowding_rate
  4. ^ http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=ilc_lvho05a&lang=en
  5. ^ "Average Household size". World Health Organisation. Retrieved 3 February 2013.