Fuel poverty and the elderly

elderly and cold pic

Fuel poverty affects the elderly
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Increased risk of morbidity

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Increased risk of COPD

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Physical health

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Mental health

Cold homes exasperate conditions such as rheumatoid disease and arthritis. Cold homes also increase the level of minor illnesses such as colds and flus.

Increased risk of morbidity

Studies from Wilkinson et al. 2001, show those in the coldest homes have their morbidity increased by 3 times as those in the warmest homes. This is a huge increase in avoidable deaths due to socioeconomic factors. The problem is worse in old stock homes, especially those build before the 1980s. Elder people with pre-existing conditions are at increased likelihood of minor illnesses such as flus. To normal health people these are not a particular problem, but those with pre-existing conditions and compromised immune systems are at greater risk of death.

Physical health

A cold home is detrimental to many elderly people. With reduced muscle mass and poorer circulation their bodies are not able to physiologically able to keep them warm during the cold periods. This affects their immune systems, amplifies pre-existing conditions and can have dire consequences on their mental health.  There is a very strong relationship between cold homes and cardiovascular and respiratory disease. These are disease which are mostly avoidable for those in cold homes and require long term treatment and immense cost to the NHS, therefore affecting every user of the NHS.

Mental health

Mental health of the elderly has been shown to be affected by living in a cold home. Research from the Marmot review shows a large increase in mental health issues, largely attributed to poorer well-being due to the cold. Cold homes can reduce dexterity with the elderly, which may already be compromised due to age or existing conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, leading to frustration and despair. Simple tasks like making a cup of tea or preparing food may become extremely difficult and further reduce the quality of their physical and mental health.

References:

Wilkinson P, Pattenden S, Armstrong B, Fletcher A, Kovats RS, Mangtani P, et al. Vulnerability to winter mortality in elderly people in Britain: population based study. BMJ. 2004;329(7467):647. Epub 2004/08/19.

http://www.instituteofhealthequity.org/projects/the-health-impacts-of-cold-homes-and-fuel-poverty

Clarifying life lost due to cold and heat: a new approach using annual time series http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25877269

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