Fuel poverty image of a house wearing a scarf

Cold homes ‘worsening Britain’s mental health crisis’

The Energy and Utilities Aliance (EUA) used Fuel Poverty Awareness Day (23 February 2018) to call for action to be taken to tackle ‘endemic’ levels of fuel poverty, which it says is worsening Britain’s mental health crisis.

As the UK heads into a cold week with snow forecast across much of the country, approximately four million households are considered to be in fuel poverty.

The recent EUA report ‘Fuel Poverty: Ending the vicious cycle of vulnerability’ explores the debilitating mental health impact suffering fuel poverty can have on people of all ages.

Evidence from the report shows that fuel poverty can cause a range of psychological and physiological issues including anxiety and depression. Some 20 per cent of English adults questioned said a housing issue had caused a negative impact on their mental health within the last five years.

Mike Foster, chief executive of the EUA, says: “It is clear that, despite policies being introduced and mechanisms put in place, fuel poverty remains a devastating reality for many in the UK. We have heard shocking anecdotes of people self-disconnecting, facing the ‘heat or eat dilemma’ or experiencing mental health problems or severe isolation as a result of their fuel poor status from organisations working on the ground.”

Ellie White, senior policy and campaigns officer at mental health charity Mind, says: “The link between fuel poverty and poor mental health works both ways. It stands to reason that living in damp, mouldy and cold conditions will make your mental health worse, while those of us with existing mental health problems are more likely to experience poverty and live in poor quality, badly insulated homes that make the need for heating even more pressing. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.

“Reducing cold has been shown to be one of the cheapest and most reliable housing improvements for increasing someone’s wellbeing and we welcome the recommendations in EUA’s report. We will continue to campaign so that everyone with a mental health problem has a safe, stable and secure place to live.”

The full EUA report can be found here.

Related Articles