Properties, Location & Wellbeing

Where you live has a major impact on your wellbeing, both mental and physical. One recent study from researchers at MIT and Stanford even found that some 65-year-olds can boost their life expectancy by more than a year by moving to an area with better medical care, climate, pollution, crime rates and traffic safety. Here, we outline some of the most influential factors.

Property attributes

Most directly and obviously, the condition of your home itself will profoundly impact your quality of life. In general, residing in a safe, secure, sufficiently spacious and comfortable property with adequate levels of natural light is beneficial for wellbeing. Conversely, studies suggest that living in cold, damp conditions makes us more susceptible to chronic illnesses such as asthma.


Perhaps surprisingly, studies investigating the impact of day-to-day weather on general wellbeing have reached mixed conclusions. Even if the direct impact is open to debate, however, weather does strongly influence our ability to engage in wellbeing-boosting activities such as spending time outdoors, socialising and exercising (see below).

While the UK is more famous for its rain and wind than its summer sunshine, extreme heat is becoming more of an issue, particularly in southern regions. This can significantly impact not just how comfortable we feel at home, but also our health. For instance, research suggests that warmer night-time temperatures during summer months can significantly increase the risk of death relating to cardiovascular disease, particularly among men aged 60-64. Being physically fit may help us tolerate heat, while children are particularly vulnerable.

In many places, the consequences of increasing temperatures will be even greater. For instance, warming climates are likely to bring mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever to new areas, and extend transmission seasons in regions that are already affected.

Moreover, as the global climate warms, extreme weather events - including storms, heatwaves and droughts - are becoming more prevalent, with several implications for our mental and physical wellbeing. Aside from the risk of physical harm to both residents and property, such events can also induce extreme levels of stress and associated health problems.

Social factors

Wellbeing research often points to the importance of social connection, so another key factor is the extent to which a location enables us to engage in a variety of social activities.

For instance, one recent study found that 'that urban and suburban neighborhoods that provide opportunities for socialization, physical activity and intellectual stimulation may help preserve older adults’ cognitive health.' More precisely, older adults living in neighbourhoods conducive to physical activity and socialisation were found to be around three years younger (in terms of cognitive health) than those living in areas in which such activities were difficult to do. The benefits of access to intellectually-stimulating amenities such as museums and libraries were found to be even greater.

Similarly, access to amenities may also impact wellbeing. Researchers in the US recently concluded that people feel happier when they have more variety (in terms of the places they go and experiences they have) in their daily routine. The relationship also appears to work in the opposite direction, with happier people seemingly more likely to seek-out novelty.

Cost of living

On a related note, living in areas in which the cost of living is particularly high can also be detrimental to wellbeing, particularly during periods of economic hardship.

According to one recent assessment from the UK's Office for National Statistics, only 25% of Londoners are able to privately rent a property at an affordable rate (defined as less than 30% of their income). The data suggests that, in London, 38% of an average household’s income would be required to cover the average rent. This figure falls to 22% for the most affordable region in England (the east Midlands). Across England as a whole, a household with a median income would need to spend 23% of its earnings to cover the median private rent. This figure increases to 38% for the bottom 25% of earners.


Your choice of where to live will also impact your wellbeing in several indirect ways. For instance, research has linked long commutes to unhappiness at work, less leisure time and poorer mental health overall. Moreover, commutes that involve stressful elements such as congestion, crowding and unpredictability have been shown to lead to low mood and lower levels of satisfaction not just during the journey itself but for the rest of the working day.

Conversely, commuters who walk or cycle report a higher level of general satisfaction (in comparison to motorists and those relying on public transport). Similarly, travelling with company appears to lessen the negative impacts of commuting, possible because doing so provides a source of entertainment and connection that makes the journey feel more like leisure time.

Proximity to nature

A large body of research points to the wellbeing-enhancing impacts of exposure to nature. One recent study, for instance, found that just 20-30 minutes of exposure to nature is sufficient to reduce stress. Even the act of 'connecting' with nature by observing wildlife through a window appears to be beneficial. (Beyond 30 minutes, it appears, the benefits continue to accrue but at a slower rate.) Other studies suggest that regularly tending to a garden - ideally two to three times a week - can lead to improved wellbeing and reduced stress.

Another study, led by researchers at the University of British Columbia and published in 2021, found that living in areas with more greenspace (including trees, parks and gardens) can improve childhood development. This may reflect the fact that greenspace reduces the adverse developmental impacts of air pollution and noise, which can increase stress, disturb sleep and damage the central nervous system. Research also suggests that easy access to greenspace can boost your wellbeing, in part because this facilitates physical activity and social interaction.

Many people find that living near coasts, lakes and rivers is highly enriching. One 2015 study of UK census records, for instance, established a link between living by the coast and enhanced health and wellbeing. Interestingly, the research found that the benefits may be greatest among socio-economically deprived communities, reflecting the greater number of opportunities for stress reduction and increased physical activity. Nevertheless, threats from extreme weather and climate change mean that coastal living is not without its risks.


Research suggests that chronic exposure to unwanted noise can lead to sleep disturbance, hearing impairment, diminished mental wellbeing and even heart disease. One study found that people living near Heathrow Airport had a 24% higher risk of stroke, a 21% higher risk of heart disease and a 14% higher risk of cardiovascular disease, relative to people living in an area with low levels of noise pollution. Unfortunately, factors such as a growing population and increasing levels of urbanisation mean that, for many of us, noise exposure is only likely to get worse.

Air quality

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines air pollution as 'contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere'. Common sources of air pollution include household combustion, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires.

Exposure to ambient (i.e., outdoor) air pollution is estimated to cause numerous serious health problems including acute respiratory infections, stroke, cancer and heart disease. It leads directly to an estimated seven million premature deaths around the world each year.

Research also suggests that even a small increase in exposure to the types of air pollution that are common within urban environments (such as particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide) can increase your susceptibility to depression and anxiety, diminish your cognitive performance and productivity, impede childhood development and even reduce the benefits of exercise.

Unfortunately, at present many UK properties breach at least one WHO guideline on air pollution.

You can assess the wellbeing impacts of any UK property through the PropEco Data Explorer and API.

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