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Are small spaces bad for the health?

Shared spaces are not ideally tiny.

The rising popularity of residential condominiums in the Philippines has had its share of fans and critics.

On one hand, advocates believe that condominiums are the best solution to housing in the city. Living conveniently near places of work or study minimizes traffic and reduces time spent away from family.

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On the other hand, critics are quick to point out that condos are often overpriced and provide minimal privacy. More significantly, many of them argue that living in tiny spaces can be detrimental to one’s mental health.

Considering that many people today live in condominiums, how much truth is hidden behind this statement? Does living in small spaces actually put its residents at risk of developing health problems?

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Now that micro-apartments are taking reign of the real estate market, it may be wise to know the possible implications of living in small spaces. Sacrificing health in lieu of comfort might not be a great decision, but you might find out that there is not much to worry about after all.

Cramped or cute?

In New York, where the number of households easily overrun the number of apartments, the city government built micro-homes as a housing solution.

Marketed as high-end living, the project is based on the winning design of the Brooklyn firm Narchitects. It features high ceiling, beautiful balconies and state-of-the-art amenities.

Despite these features, however, many criticize this innovative type of housing due to the small spaces being offered at relatively high costs. According to some experts, these tiny spaces can cause claustrophobia and increased stress. For them, these spaces can even lead to higher rates of domestic violence and substance abuse in worst-case scenarios.

Susan Saegart, director of the Housing Environments Research Group, was quoted as saying that micro-apartments are best for millennials working in the city. Children or middle-aged people, however, might find the tiny spaces unhealthy.

As per Saegart, crowded apartments can prevent children from studying and concentrating. Moving or folding furniture might also be seen as a hassle to some residents living in such small spaces.

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Conversely, there are people who find the idea of micro-apartments enchanting. For its supporters, tiny spaces provide its residents a better sense of control. Small condominium units are also often compensated with quality communal amenities and green spaces.

Moreover, existing micro-apartments actually attract more than millennials—it surprisingly finds a significant market among senior citizens.

For the older generation, small spaces are easier to clean and maintain. As Christopher Bledsoe, founder of an all-inclusive living platform, puts it: “More home equals more money and more maintenance.”

Small spaces, therefore, require less maintenance because of its size. For fans of condo living, the amenities, services and convenience are enough to compensate for lack of space.

Space and happiness

Chris Foye, a PHD candidate at Reading University in the United Kingdom, conducted a study analyzing the relation between the size of living spaces and subjective well-being.

His proposal states that a person’s satisfaction with the size of his home depends mainly on two factors. One would be the home’s capacity to accommodate its residents’ activities and values. The other would be how that living space compared to neighboring homes.

Basically put, one’s satisfaction with his home size depends on how it allows him to conduct daily routines and what social status it puts him with others.

The study yielded interesting results. Based on the findings, it appears that people choose to move to larger accommodations mainly based on how they compare with others.

As Foye puts it, “Individuals are deriving subjective well-being from having more space that other people, as opposed to having more space in itself.”

Moreover, people who do make the move find happiness in the new home, but improved sense of joy is not sustained as the years progress. People report an increased satisfaction with their living spaces upon the move, but this happiness level mellows down over time.

Overall, Foye asserts that we find satisfaction with our homes if they compare well with others. Over the years, our standards for good living change and this affects how we find happiness in our homes.

Satisfaction is subjective

Based on these cases, it appears that satisfaction with one’s home boils down to one’s living preference. While some might find condominium living unhealthy and uncomfortable, for others, the setting is stimulating and easy to control.

Yuppies and senior citizens seem to embrace tiny space living, but growing families might not be suited to its features.

At the end of the day, space does affect one’s sense of comfort and happiness, but these feelings are subjective. No one can dictate whether a space is perfectly suited or detrimental to you, it is up to your personal taste and living standards.

What is important is that you make the choice that will accommodate your values and lifestyle. Your home should also be a place where you are comfortable with your neighbors and immediate community.

Small spaces can affect your mental health, but it is not always in the negative aspect.

(www.pixnio.com; www.pexels.com; Wikimedia Commons; Foye, Chris. “The Relationship Between Size of Living Space and Subjective Well-Being.” Journal of Happiness Studies. April 2017, Volume 18, Issue 2. pp 427-461; www.archdaily.com; www.theatlantic.com; www.pxhere.com)

The author is a licensed architect who studied abroad and currently works for DSFN Architects. She grew up in a spacious home but currently lives in a tiny space in the city. For her, there are benefits and disadvantages to both situations, and it all boils down to what one’s priorities in life are.

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