Screenshot 2020-08-06 at 22.10.44.pngBackground: Rapid urbanization, unmatched by an associated supply of housing, has resulted in overcrowding in the cities of many developing countries, including in Johannesburg, South Africa. Household overcrowding has been associated with a range of ill-health outcomes, including acute respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases. The aim of this study was to describe the levels of household crowding, and examine associations with respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms in selected two low-income neighbourhoods in Johannesburg.

Methods: Questionnaire data from a panel study conducted over an 11-year period between 2006 and 2016 were extracted to conduct the analyses. Structured questionnaires, designed to collect information on housing conditions, socio-economic and health status were administered to adult representatives of households occupying the primary dwelling on pre-selected study sites.

Results: Over the 11-year study period, levels of overcrowding remained unchanged. Around 57.6% of dwellings in the study neighbourhoods were determined to be overcrowded in relation to international guidelines. Results from the multiple logistic regression analyses indicated that crowded dwellings were associated with elevated levels of acute respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as fever/chills.

Conclusion: Respondent perceptions varied from objective measures of overcrowding. Crowded dwellings were associated with elevated reports of acute respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as fever/chills.

Keywords: Overcrowding, Health, South Africa, Housing, Environmental health