Date lodged: 14 August 2017
To ask the Scottish Government what analysis it has carried out of the link between fuel poverty and poor physical and mental health, and what the findings of this were.
Answered by: Kevin Stewart 28 August 2017
The “Evidence Review of the Potential Wider Impacts of Climate Change Mitigation Options: Built Environment Sector” (http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/01/3358) published in 2017 to inform the draft Climate Change Plan found evidence that measures to improve the energy efficiency of homes, including by insulating them, can result in benefits to residents’ health, particularly among those living in fuel poverty. Physical health benefits can arise from warmer homes; and mental health benefits can arise from reduced energy bills and hence reduced stress.
In addition, GoWell, funded by the Scottish Government, published the research “Can housing improvements cure or prevent the onset of health conditions over time in deprived areas?” (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12889-015-2524-5/fulltext.html) in November 2015. This research indicated that receipt of fabric works was associated with higher likelihood of recovery from mental health problems and circulatory conditions. Receipt of central heating was also associated with higher likelihood of recovery from circulatory conditions. The research also noted that health gains from housing improvements appears most likely when targeted at those in greatest health need. GoWell also published in November 2016 “Housing improvements, fuel payment difficulties and mental health in deprived communities” (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14616718.2016.1248526) which showed that increases in the difficulty to pay fuel bills is associated with worsening mental health. The analysis showed that the biggest positive impact on paying fuel bills was either gaining, or remaining in, employment.
The Fuel Poverty Evidence Review published in 2012 by the Scottish Government examined evidence on the relationship between cold homes and poor health outcomes. It concluded that there was evidence suggesting that there was an association between thermal comfort and physical and mental well-being.