Fuel poverty: Winter of 2018 claims nearly 10,000 lives
By TruePublica: Between 1951 and 2006 a total of 309,144 people were killed and 17.6 million were injured in accidents on British roads. The result was a never-ending government spending drive to make the roads of Britain safer. In fact, in 2018, £4.7 billion was spent on the national road system in Britain.
The highest number of road deaths during peacetime (records since 1926) was 7,985 in 1966. And yet, in the comparatively warm winter of 2018/19 approximately 10,000 people died due to fuel poverty. The amount spent on winter fuel allowances in the same year was £1.9bn.
Today, you are almost 10 times more likely to die from a cold home than you are in a road traffic accident.
Fuel poverty and cold homes have caused about 9,000 deaths in England and Wales last winter alone, a study from the University College London (UCL) has been able to reveal. Another study based on the World Health Organization’s own conservative estimates puts that number at 9,700.
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The charity Age UK estimates that fuel poverty, where people cannot afford to heat their home, costs the NHS around £1.3bn every year.
Each year, the Office for National Statistics calculates the number of additional deaths which take place in winter, caused by interrelated issues, including falls, viruses which are more prevalent in winter and cold indoor temperatures bringing on or exacerbating illness. That total number is 32,000 – a third of which is attributable to cold homes.
Researchers took those statistics and the English Housing Survey, which collects information about the condition and energy efficiency of housing, and extrapolated the number of deaths occurring in the coldest homes.
Dr Jessica Allen, whose team conducted the study, told BBC Panorama: “This was not the coldest winter on record. People dying from cold homes are a result of high fuel prices, low incomes and poor insulation. It’s entirely preventable.
“If that was an epidemic of some disease there would quite rightly be people marching in the streets and causing an outrage, but this is because of the cold.”
Some Statistics – Source: UK fuel poverty monitor
The links between cold homes and ill health are now very well recognised. When the temperature falls below 16°C, respiratory function is impaired. When it reaches 12°C increased strain is placed on the cardiovascular system. When the temperature reaches 5-8°C, an increased risk of death can be observed at population level. Whilst cold weather directly triggers these impacts, it can take three days after a cold spell for deaths from coronary thrombosis to peak, and 12 days for deaths from respiratory conditions. It can take up to 40 days for deaths to return to average levels.
- A 1°C drop in living-room temperature results in a rise in blood pressure amongst those aged 65-74
- For every 1°C drop in temperature below 5°C, GP consultations for respiratory illness in older people increase by 19%
- 30% of excess winter deaths can be attributed to cold housing
- Increased levels of clotting molecules in the blood during the winter months accounts for a 9-15% rise in coronary heart disease
- Being unable to keep warm at home and being in fuel debt have been identified as independent predictors of Common Mental Disorder (CMD)
- Being cold at home has also been independently and significantly associated with the likelihood of a young person suffering four or more negative mental health outcomes
This means that cold homes in the UK kill about the same number of people each year as breast and prostate cancer.
In the last five years, British winters have officially killed 167,690 in excess deaths, one third are attributable simply to not being able to keep warm.
In 2010, the global swine flu pandemic threat that turned out to be somewhere between a pharmaceutical scam and political incompetence cost Britain £1.3 billion that saved almost no-one. If that wasted £1.3 billion had saved 9,000 lives from H1N1 swine flu or any other pandemic, the public would regard that as taxpayers money well-spent. Why then does the government allow people to die needlessly of the cold, which comes around every year?