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<h4>Objective</h4>In many countries, housing is used for wealth accumulation and provides financial security in old age. We tested the hypothesis that household wealth, measured by housing quality and ownership of durable assets, would increase with age of the household head.<h4>Methods</h4>We conducted a survey of household heads in 68 villages surrounding Mtwara town, Tanzania and recorded relevant demographic, housing and social characteristics for each household. The primary analysis assessed the relationship between age of the household head, quality of the house structure and socio-economic score (SES) using multivariate analysis. Principal Components Analysis (PCA) was used as a data reduction tool to estimate the social-economic status of subjects based on relevant variables that are considered as proxy for SES.<h4>Results</h4>Of 13 250 household heads were surveyed of whom 49% were male. Those at least 50 years old were more likely to live in homes with an earth floor (86%) compared to younger household heads (80%; P < 0.0001), wattle and daub walls (94% vs. 90%; P < 0.0001) and corrugated iron roofs (56% vs. 52%; P < 0.0001). Wealth accumulation in the villages included in the study tends to be an inverted V-relationship with age. Housing quality and SES rose to a peak by 50 years and then rapidly decreased. Households with a large number of members were more likely to have better housing than smaller households.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Housing plays a critical role in wealth accumulation and socio-economic status of a household in rural villages in Tanzania. Households with a head under 50 years were more likely to live in improved housing and enjoyed a higher SES, than households with older heads. Larger families may provide protection against old age poverty in rural areas. Assuring financial security in old age, specifically robust and appropriate housing would have wide-ranging benefits.

Original publication




Journal article


Tropical medicine & international health : TM & IH

Publication Date





1441 - 1449


CSK Research Solutions Ltd., Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.