Life shouldn’t be ugly just because you’re poor was the arresting title of a piece in today’s Times newspaper by Clare Foges. It caught my eye because I have long held the view that one’s living environment is a very important determinant of one’s wellbeing.
There are of course many determinants of wellbeing and in the policy makers’ minds such things as health, education and material wealth seem to dominate with little thought given to the living environment. So, in the debate about inequalities the same elements – health, education and wealth – feature large particularly the latter with no attention given to the gross inequalities that exist in this country in the quality of the living environment.
As a public sector retiree I am fortunate to be fairly comfortably provided financially and like many in similar circumstances I invest most of my accumulated and continuing wealth in living in a nice house with adequate space, a sizeable garden and with a pleasant outlook. Yet so many of my fellow citizens are forced to live in small houses – few civilized countries have such small domestic dwellings – in ugly surroundings and little if any privacy.
Churchill said “ we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.”
We need to pay much more attention to the shape of our buildings and to the dire impact so much of our misshapen environment has on the nation’s wellbeing and mental health.