How can we define and identify household overcrowding affecting the wellbeing of families, using publicly available and council-held data?


Household overcrowding is a growing problem in England. It often coincides with and contributes to other housing problems, such as damp and mould, it is a risk factor for many health outcomes including infections, injuries and poor mental health.

For councils to alleviate the effects of overcrowding, new methods are required to identify which houses are overcrowded and how it affects residents. In particular, existing measures are not tailored to particular populations, such as families, where overcrowding limits children’s ability to play and study.  

What are we seeking to do?

In this feasibility study we are seeking to develop a method to identify households with families at high risk of overcrowding affecting their wellbeing.


  • Agree a definition of household overcrowding affecting family wellbeing with people that have lived experience of overcrowding
  • Operationalise this measure in one council, by combining publicly available and council-held data, to identify households with families at risk of the health effects of overcrowding
  • Understand the wider applicability of this measure with other councils and its implications for population-level intervention design


A mixed methods design will be used.  A resident engagement approach will be taken throughout the project. This considers families with lived experience of overcrowding and community representatives as partners in the project, alongside service professionals and researchers. From discussions with these groups, a description and definition of overcrowding affecting households with families will be produced. Based on this definition, data available to the council will be combined and analysed quantitatively to provide a composite measure of household overcrowding affecting family wellbeing. The methods and illustrative results from one council will be shared with other councils, with a short survey to understand its wider applicability.   

Anticipated impact and dissemination

For councils, the project will provide a feasible method of identifying areas of potential overcrowding affecting the health of families in their area. Longer term, it will enable councils to design and target interventions to alleviate the effects of overcrowding and that may increase the wellbeing of families. Guidance will be produced and disseminated through council and public health networks.

For lived experience volunteers, the project should immediately provide the sense of feeling heard. Longer term, their views will have an influence on local and wider policy. Lay summaries in visual forms (e.g. video) will be developed with lived experience partners and disseminated via HealthWatch networks.

For research, this project will advance our understanding of methods to identify overcrowding affecting specific populations. Findings will be disseminated via peer-reviewed publications and conferences.

Partners & Collaborators

London Borough of Islington

London Borough of Tower Hamlets

London Borough of Newham

Doncaster City Council

Halton Borough Council

Lead Investigator
Investigating Team
James Hertel (London Borough of Islington)
Laura Scott (London Borough of Islington)
Ayanna Griffith (London Borough of Camden)
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