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Moldy Home, Depressed Dweller

Depression May Be Particularly Common in People Living in Damp or Moldy Homes
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 29, 2007 -- Living in a damp or moldy home may be depressing, according to a new study on household mold and depression.

The researchers stop short of blaming depression on moldy homes. But they see reason for more research on the topic.

The study included more than 5,800 adults living in nearly 3,000 homes in eight European cities in France, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, and Lithuania.

Participants completed surveys about depression symptoms in the previous two weeks. Nine percent of them were classified as depressed, report Edmond Shenassa, ScD, and colleagues.

The researchers also visited participants' homes to gauge the homes' mold and dampness and to ask participants if they felt "in control" of their homes. More than half of the participants -- 57% -- lived in homes that weren't moldy or damp.

Depressed participants were particularly likely to live in damp or moldy homes, especially those who felt that their homes were out of control.

Social and economic status didn't fully explain the results.

"We thought that once we statistically accounted for factors that could clearly contribute to depression -- things like employment status and crowding -- we would see any link vanish," says Shenassa, who works in Providence, R.I. in the community health department of Brown University's medical school.

"But the opposite was true. We found a solid association between depression and living in a damp, moldy home," Shenassa says.

The study doesn't prove that household mold causes depression. The researchers couldn't control for every possible depression risk factor -- and they couldn't prove which came first -- depression or household mold.

"What the study makes clear is the importance of housing as an indicator of health, including mental health," says Shenassa.

The study appears in the upcoming October edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

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