Fuel poverty and the health of older people: the role of local climate

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Abstract

Background

Fuel poverty is a risk factor for ill-health, particularly among older people. We hypothesized that both the risk of fuel poverty and the strength of its detrimental effects on health would be increased in areas of colder and wetter climate.

Methods

Individual data on respiratory health, hypertension, depressive symptoms and self-rated health were derived from the 2008/09 wave of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Climate data for 89 English counties and unitary authorities were obtained from the UK Met Office. Multilevel regression models (n = 7160) were used to test (i) the association between local climate and fuel poverty risk, and (ii) the association between local climate and the effect of fuel poverty on health (adjusted for age, gender, height, smoking status and household income).

Results

Individual risk of fuel poverty varied across counties. However, this variation was not explained by differences in climate. Fuel poverty was significantly related to worse health for two of the outcomes (respiratory health and depressive symptoms). However, there was no significant effect of climate on fuel poverty's association with these outcomes.

Conclusions

Although there is regional variation in England in both the risk of fuel poverty and its effects on health, this variation is not explained by differences in rainfall and winter temperatures.

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