Living the high life

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Swiss report suggests that living on 8th floor or above in a high-rise building can reduce risk of dying from heart attack or stroke

Those living at the upper floors of a high rise block, i.e. on the eighth floor or above, are likely to enjoy better quality of health and therefore live longer, a study has shown. The examination was carried out by the University of Bern in Switzerland and demonstrates that those living higher in the sky benefit from longer hours of daylight, better air quality and more opportunities for exercise, for example when the lift systems in their buildings are out of order.

The study was undertaken on 1,500,015 individuals in Switzerland living in 1,008,190 households and 160,629 buildings of 4 or more floors. It found that there were more single person households and households of couples without children living at the uppermost floors and the percentage of Swiss nationals, French-speaking residents and people with no religious affiliation increased towards the top of the buildings. The percentage of unemployed residents also increased from 31.6% on the ground floor to 46.3% on the eighth floor and above.

In a lengthy conclusion, the authors of the report (Radoslaw Panczak, Bruna Galobardes, Adrian Spoerri, Marcel Zwahlen and Matthias Egger) state that ‘mortality from all causes was higher in people living on the ground floor compared to those living on higher floors’. Socio-economic factors are included in the analysis which states that ‘mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases declined with higher floors of residence, whereas no association was evident for prostate cancer. Indeed, the pattern of mortality differentials across floors was similar to that found across neighbourhoods of lower and higher socio-economic position’.

We asked Dr. Antony Wood, Executive Director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, for his comments: “While the failures of high-rise public housing have been much publicized, the prospect of healthier living at higher floors is not just anecdotal, but well-supported by research. It is particularly true in developing economies where air quality is considerably poorer than in Europe and North America - in these places high-rise dwellings are considered the most desirable.

“This new research suggests that a black-and-white dismissal of high-rise housing is a one-dimensional approach that ignores the evidence. Conversely, high-rise housing will not automatically succeed, and some of these projects were demolished with good reason. Humane design and proper maintenance are fundamental to a project’s success, regardless of its height.”

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