“It’s changed my life not to have the continual worry of being warm” – health and wellbeing impacts of a local fuel poverty programme: a mixed-methods evaluation

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Abstract

Background: Living in a cold home and being fuel poor can contribute to adverse physical and mental health. Energy efficiency interventions are considered the simplest ways of tackling fuel poverty and preventing associated negative health, wellbeing, and socio-economic consequences. The overall aim of the current study was to provide a greater understanding of the impact of a locally administered programme, which funded the installation of major heating/insulation measures in areas of high fuel poverty, on the health and wellbeing of beneficiaries of the programme.
Methods: A mixed-methods approach to explore the health and wellbeing impacts of a fuel poverty programme in East Sussex that took place between October 2016 and March 2018. Beneficiaries completed the Warwick-Edinburgh
Mental Wellbeing Scale before and after any heating/insulation work had been completed in their home. Beneficiaries were also asked to retrospectively rate their health pre- and post-installation. Interviews with 23 beneficiaries of the
programme were conducted to explore in-depth the impact of the programme on people’s health and wellbeing and the wider social determinants of health.
Results: A major heating/insulation measure was installed in 149 homes. The majority of measures installed were boilers (57.7%) and new central heating systems (32.2%). Self-rated health and wellbeing were significantly higher
post-installation. Interviewees described clear examples of the positive impacts on physical health and wellbeing such as fewer chest infections, reduced pain, feeling less anxious and depressed, and generally feeling happier and
more relaxed. Interviews also highlighted broader areas of impact such as reduced social isolation and increased use of domestic space. Many of the beneficiaries also reported a reduction in their energy bills since their new heating systems had been installed.
Conclusions: The findings from the evaluation suggest that the installation of major heating or insulation measures such as new boilers have substantial benefits for the health and wellbeing of beneficiaries. The findings also suggest
that the programme had a positive impact on wider determinants of health including reduction in stress and isolation that are likely to be part of the pathways between fuel poverty interventions and mental and physical health
outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number786 (2022)
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume22
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2022

Keywords

  • Fuel poverty
  • Energy efficiency
  • Health
  • Wellbeing
  • Psychosocial
  • Mixed-methods
  • Deprivation
  • Inequality

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