Intended for healthcare professionals


Fuel poverty is intimately linked to poor health

BMJ 2022; 376 doi: (Published 10 March 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;376:o606
  1. Margaret Whitehead, Duncan professor of public health,
  2. David Taylor-Robinson, professor of public health and policy,
  3. Ben Barr, professor of applied public health research
  1. Department of Public Health, Policy, and Systems, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  1. Correspondence to: M Whitehead mmw{at}

Urgent measures must be taken now to protect households at risk

People are said to be experiencing fuel poverty when they cannot afford to heat their home to a reasonable temperature. Before the pandemic, over 13% of all households in England (3.2 million households) were living in fuel poverty, according to government figures.1 Rates in Wales and Northern Ireland were 12% and 18%, respectively, but Scotland’s rates were even higher at 25%. Families with children made up nearly half of fuel poor households.

Evidence strongly suggests that growing up and living in cold homes and poor housing have a direct and detrimental effect on health.2 For older people, living in cold temperatures increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks. Respiratory diseases, including flu, are more common, as are falls, injuries, and hypothermia.3 Children growing up in cold, damp, and mouldy homes with inadequate ventilation have higher than average rates of respiratory infections and asthma, chronic ill health, and disability. They are also more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and slower physical growth and cognitive …

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