Overcrowding or crowding refers to the condition where more people are located within a given space than is considered tolerable from a safety and health perspective which will depend on current environment and local cultural norms. Overcrowding may arise temporarily and/or regularly, in the home, public spaces or on public transport. The former is of particular concern since it is an individual's place of shelter.
Effects on quality of life due to crowding may be due to increased physical contact, lack of sleep, lack of privacy and poor hygiene practices. 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.
Measures of overcrowding
The American Housing Survey is conducted by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) every two years. A 2007 literature review conducted for HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research found that the most commonly used measures of overcrowding are persons-per-room or persons-per-bedroom. The United States uses persons per room, and considers a household crowded if there is more than one person per room, and severely crowded if more than 1.5 persons share a room.
World Health Organization
The Housing Act 1985 states:
"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 Housing Act describes how many persons are permitted per room, as well as amount of floor space per room as outlined in the table below. Children under 1 year are not counted, and children between 1 and 10 years are counted as half a unit.
|Area (in sq. ft)||No. of persons|
|110 or more||2 persons|
|90 to 110||1.5 persons|
|70 to 90||1 person|
|50 to 70||0.5 persons|
- 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.
|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
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
- Gray A (2001). "Definitions of crowding and the effect of crowding on health" (PDF). Ministry of Social Policy, New Zealand. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
- "American Housing Survey". Retrieved January 19, 2018.
- US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research (2007). "Measuring Overcrowding in Housing" (PDF). Retrieved January 19, 2018.
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (2015). "International Housing Indicators Research Report" (PDF). Retrieved January 19, 2018.
- World Health Organization (2003). "Overcrowding" (PDF). Retrieved 19 January 2018.
- "Housing Act 1985. 1985 c. 68, part X". Retrieved January 19, 2018.
- "Statistics Explained". epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 2017-09-12.
- Soaita AM (2014). "Overcrowding and 'under-occupancy' in Romania: a case study of housing inequality". Environment and Planning A. 46 (1): 203–221.
- "Overcrowding rate by age, gender and poverty status - Total population". Eurostat. 2012.
- "Occupied conventional dwellings by number of rooms and occupants". Eurostat. 2012.
- "Trångboddhet – skillnaderna kvarstår" [Overcrowding - the differences remain] (PDF). Många mål - få medel. Boverkets utvärdering av statliga stöd till bostadsbyggandet 1993-2004 (in Swedish). Boverket (Government housing agency). December 2004.
- Colosia AD, Masaquel A, Hall CB, Barrett AM, Mahadevia PJ, Yogev R (April 2012). "Residential crowding and severe respiratory syncytial virus disease among infants and young children: a systematic literature review". BMC Infectious Diseases. 12: 95. doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-95. PMC . PMID 22520624.
- Krieger J, Higgins DL (May 2002). "Housing and health: time again for public health action". American Journal of Public Health. 92 (5): 758–68. PMC . PMID 11988443.
- Evans GW (December 2003). "The built environment and mental health". Journal of Urban Health. 80 (4): 536–55. doi:10.1093/jurban/jtg063. PMC . PMID 14709704.
- Centerwall BS (June 1995). "Race, socioeconomic status, and domestic homicide". JAMA. 273 (22): 1755–8. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520460037031. PMID 7769768.