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 practices and an inability to care adequately for sick household members. 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
World Health Organization
The standards for overcrowding as defined by the World Health Organization is as follows:
- 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.
- The WHO accepted standards for floor space are as follows. A baby under 12 months is not counted, and children between 1 to 10 years are counted as half a unit.
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
- 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.
- 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). However while the Bedroom Standard is generally advocated by policy advocates, statutory space and occupancy standards are usually either less generous, partial (for instance they apply to social housing only) or non-existent.
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. Within the EU post-communist states, the extent to which the commodification of housing has improved occupancy standards appeared to be modest. For instance, during 2005-2010 the percentage of overcrowded population in Romania and Latvia remained the highest in the EU (55%). Conversely, the Czech Republic showed the best performance in 2010, with overcrowding falling from 33% to 22% over the period, becoming lower than in Italy and Greece. In the remaining EU post-communist states, overcrowding fell moderately over the period, accounting for 35-49% in 2010. Lifecycle has remained a powerful determinant of overcrowding. Eastern Europeans aged under 18 are on average 2.5 times more likely to experience overcrowding than those aged over 65. Affordability problems of young adults, who had to delay home leaving, contributed to unrelenting overcrowding, but so did the legacy of a housing stock composed of many small dwellings. In the EU post-communist states, between 51-87% of dwellings had no more than three rooms.
Swedish statistics and politics have used three different definitions over the years:
|Definition||Defined when||Exempt from calculation||Inhabitants
|Percentage of households that are overcrowded|
|Norm 1||1940s||Kitchen, bathroom||2||30 %||13 %||1 %||-||-|
|Norm 2||mid 1960s||Kitchen, bathroom, one living room||2||-||43 %||7 %||4 %||-|
|Norm 3||1974||Kitchen, bathroom, one living room||1 individual
or a couple
|-||-||-||15 %||15 %|
The most dramatic change took place according to "norm 2" between 1960 and 1975 because of the Million Programme. Of the households that are regarded as overcrowded according to "norm 3", two thirds are single persons living in 1-room apartments without a separate living room.
Risks due to overcrowding
- Physical : Spread of infectious diseases
- Psychological : Frustration, anxiety
- Social : Violence
- High morbidity and mortality
- Gray, Allison. "Definitions of crowding and the effect of crowding on health". Ministry of Social Policy. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
- Soaita, A. M. (2014). Overcrowding and ‘under-occupancy’ in Romania: a case study of housing inequality. Environment and Planning A, 46(1), 203 – 221 http://www.envplan.com/abstract.cgi?id=a45718
- Eurostat, 2012c, "Overcrowding rate by age, gender and poverty status - Total population" http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=ilc_lvho05a&lang=en
- Eurostat, 2012b, “Occupied conventional dwellings by number of rooms and occupants” http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=cens_01ndnbown&lang=en
- Trångboddhet – skillnaderna kvarstår, reprint from the report Många mål - få medel. Boverkets utvärdering av statliga stöd till bostadsbyggandet 1993-2004. Boverket (Government housing agency), December 2004.
- "Average Household size". World Health Organisation. Retrieved 3 February 2013.