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Enhancing social and individual sustainability in urban co-living

Christin Mellner (Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)
Maria Niemi (Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden)
Elin Pollanen (Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Center for Social Sustainability, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden)
Walter Osika (Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Centre for Psychiatry Research, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden and Stockholm Health Care Services, Region Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden)

International Journal of Housing Markets and Analysis

ISSN: 1753-8270

Article publication date: 4 January 2021

Issue publication date: 12 November 2021




Urbanisation is trending globally, leading to population densification and housing shortage and people living increasingly in isolation. This entails challenges to sustainable development including ecological, social and well-being issues. This paper aims to evaluate the effects of a six-month onboarding self-leadership programme including exercises in mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy, amongst residents in a co-living space (n = 24) and a waiting list (n = 21).


At baseline and post-intervention, participants filled out questionnaires and two waves of in-depth interviews (n = 24) were conducted. Repeated measures one-way analysis of variance and thematic text analyses were performed.


Participation in the programme significantly (all ps < 0.000 to 0.050) improved relationship quality and communication about one’s needs regarding work-non-work boundaries, especially amongst residents at the co-living space. Moreover, programme participation significantly increased perceived work-non-work boundary control, work-life balance, psychological well-being, psychological flexibility and self-compassion, with effect sizes (hp2) in the medium to the large range (0.14 to 0.39). Qualitative findings suggested that increased psychological flexibility and self-compassion encouraged co-living residents to be more vulnerable and trusting, which enabled communication regarding one’s needs and enhanced mutual social support and relationship quality. This, in turn, improved overall boundary management, work-life balance and well-being.


Co-living settings – while contributing to overall sustainable development through more efficient use of space and resources – can also contribute to societal and individual sustainability. However, to ensure this contribution, the physical environment including private areas and common and semi-public areas, as well as the socio-emotional environment need to be considered.



Funding: Vinnova (Tech farm: space-efficient co-living 2.0, Dnr 2016–03766).


Mellner, C., Niemi, M., Pollanen, E. and Osika, W. (2021), "Enhancing social and individual sustainability in urban co-living", International Journal of Housing Markets and Analysis, Vol. 14 No. 5, pp. 1129-1144.



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