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Combating the health impacts of cold homes

A hospital ward. A patient sits on their bed looking away from the camera.

We improve lives and reduce the burden on the NHS, supporting people to ensure their home is warm and safe

Living in a cold home has a significant impact on physical and mental health. It makes existing health problems worse and causes a substantial burden on the health service.

Many deaths and illnesses linked to living in a cold home are preventable.

For over 40 years, the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) has been working to improving people’s health and the condition of their homes through our energy advice and partnerships with the health sector.

We improve lives and reduce the burden on the NHS, preventing bed blocking in hospitals by ensuring patients are able to return to warm and safe homes.

How do cold homes affect health?

Cold temperatures, along with common problems like dampness, condensation and mould, can make existing medical conditions worse.

Cold homes can cause and worsen respiratory conditions, cardiovascular diseases, poor mental health, dementia and hypothermia says the Institute of Health Equity. They also cause and slow recovery from injury according to Public Health England. At temperatures below 12°C, blood thickens, leading to an increase in blood pressure and greater risk of heart attacks or stroke.

Cold conditions contribute to condensation, damp and mould. This has a detrimental effect on conditions like asthma or eczema. Damp can also cause deterioration of the building, making it harder and more expensive to repair.

Meanwhile, illnesses linked to cold, damp and dangerous homes cost the NHS more than £2.5bn a year (Institute of Health Equality). This equates to £6.9m a day (up from £3.6m a day in 2016, Kingston).

7,409 winter deaths caused by cold homes in the UK, based on a 10 year average. Excess winter deaths stood at 15,069 people for 2021-22, with 21.5% attributable to living in cold conditions.

The Institute for Public Policy Research found fuel poverty can also lead to people taking days off work. School children’s attainment levels are negatively impacted. Meanwhile the stress of worrying about paying bills, or isolation because the house is so cold no one can visit, affect everyone in the household. Read more about the health impact of cold or damp homes here.

Working with health care providers to end cold homes

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends a strategic approach to integrate healthcare with local services dealing with fuel poverty and debt, energy efficiency, insulation and heating provision.

For many years we’ve been working with health care providers and alongside other health related partners.

CSE caseworkers are based within local hospitals and have good links with the wider health sector.

Watch this video showing caseworkers in one of our projects in Wiltshire. Hospital staff sometimes know that patients are being bounced around, but don’t know what to do. With our support they can help patients access long term solutions to cold homes.

Warm & Safe Wiltshire caseworkers.

Our work to end the suffering of cold homes

We work with partners to help address connected issues for people to keep warm affordably.

After CSE’s intervention people have fewer medical appointments, generally feel better and take less medication.

The also report that they experience reduced stress from financial concerns. And because they find their house is cosier, warmer and drier, they are less worried about their children’s health, and are more inclined to invite people around, reducing social isolation.

Our projects include:

End the suffering of cold homes

We can tackle the climate emergency and fuel poverty at the same time. Find out more about supporting our work.

Fuel poverty is when people have to spend a high proportion of their income on keeping their home warm. This is due to a combination of poor housing with inadequate insulation and heating, expensive energy tariffs, and low incomes, meaning people can’t afford to keep warm.

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