Living in a cold home increases the risk of severe mental health problems

New study using Understanding Society data highlights serious health implications of fuel poverty

A new study by Dr Amy Clair, Research Associate for the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change (MiSoC) with Professor Emma Baker at the University of Adelaide, has used data from Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, to examine the impact of poor housing on mental health.

The study finds that people living in cold homes were more likely to experience severe mental health problems.

Writing in the Conversation, Dr Clair said: “When people’s homes became cold, their risk of severe mental distress significantly increased. For people who previously had no mental health problems, the odds of severe mental distress doubled when they had a cold home, while for those who had some (but not severe) mental health symptoms, the risk tripled.”

The study also found that cold homes were more likely to be an issue for ethnic minorities, lone parents and the unemployed, as well as those in rented housing.

“Sadly, the risk of living in a cold home differs greatly across the UK population. Lone parents and people who are unemployed or long-term sick are much more likely to live in cold homes. There is also significant inequality across ethnic groups – more than 12% of black people live in cold homes compared with under 6% of white British people, for example. Those who rent rather than own their home are also far more likely to live in cold homes, for social renters this is despite the, on average, higher quality and efficiency of social rented homes.”

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