What does it mean to feel at home?

We delved into this question in our latest study of global adults, talking to over 11,000 people aged 25 to 64 in 18 countries. We investigated what “home” means around the world, how people create a feeling of home, and what the benefits are of that feeling. Here’s what we learned:

Home is more than a physical space – it’s an emotional state.

While people’s dwelling spaces are a source of pride and comfort, the feeling of home stretches beyond those four walls. Close to 8 in 10 adults (78%) believe that home is more a state of mind than a physical space.

Home is intrinsic to people’s identities.

The feeling of being at home is also fundamental to people’s deepest selves, with 91% agreeing that “home is an essential part of who I am” and 86% feeling that without “home,” they would be lost.

People create “home” through spaces, activities, loved ones (including pets), meaningful objects, and the right atmosphere.

These are the five building blocks to the feeling of home:

  • Spaces. Home can be anywhere, anyplace that reflects who we are. When people feel in sync with or have a spiritual connection to a location, it feels like home. In fact, 54% of adults feel at home in an outdoor setting.
  • Activities. The familiarity, predictability, and sense of control in certain activities can evoke a feeling of home. Activities that evoke that feeling of home can be solo activities, activities with others, or activities for others. The specific activity may differ from person to person, but relaxation is a key element. Nearly two-thirds of adults (63%) say “just relaxing” helps them feel at home.
  • Loved ones. Virtually all adults (92%) believe that “home is being surrounded by people I love.” Loved ones make people feel at home wherever they are. Nurturing others can evoke a feeling of home too – 93% think of home as a place where they can take care of those who are most important to them.
  • Personal objects. Things can also transport people to a place they call home. It isn’t just about functionality or aesthetics – objects provide a connection to special people, places, and memories. The most important kinds of meaningful items are personal items (93%), photos of loved ones and memories (86%), items passed down by family (80%), furniture (79%), and souvenirs (78%).
  • Atmosphere. The right atmosphere and sensations can make a place feel like home, the most important being sounds (84%), lighting (59%), room temperature (55%), and smells/scents (54%). Warmth – physical as well as emotional – creates a homey atmosphere, with 96% of adults believing it’s important that their home generate a feeling of warmth.

Home is essential to well-being – a safe and judgment-free place for recharging and connecting deeply with others.

The more people feel at home, the greater their self-confidence, comfort, sense that they can rely on friends, closeness to family, and connection to their local community. The benefits of home fall into three categories:

  • A safe, judgement-free zone, with 95% of adults feeling that home is a place where they can express themselves and 97% saying that it’s important that their home create a refuge where they can feel safe.
  • A place for grounding and renewal, with 94% feeling that home is where they are best able to recharge and prepare for life’s challenges.
  • A space to connect deeply with others, with 80% defining home as a place where they connect with like-minded people.

The need to connect and belong was especially strong in 2020.

In all the chaos of 2020, there was a rise in feeling connected to the local community (74% in 2020 vs. 56% in 2016) and having a good circle of friends to rely on (82% in 2020 vs. 71% in 2016).

In the end, home is a sense of truly belonging.

It’s inside us. And it extends beyond us. Home is who we are. No wonder 90% agree that home is their happiest place.