The Fuel Poverty Subsidiary Study (FPSS): Health, Mental Health and Housing Conditions in England


Rationale

Previous research has indicated that poor housing is linked to physical health problems and psychological distress. However, it was not known if this also applied to diagnosable psychiatric illnesses. The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) questionnaire collects data on the prevalence of common diagnosable mental health disorders in the UK population. In 2007, the survey asked participants a series of questions on energy consumption, fuel poverty and housing conditions. This provided a large dataset of evidence, which offered the opportunity to investigate fuel poverty, physical and mental health and any discernible connections between them.





Key research Question

The research was guided by the following objectives:

  • To determine the prevalence of various forms of fuel poverty and how they related to housing type and household makeup, as well as other manifestations of poverty.
  • Whether there were any associations between substandard housing conditions and the mental and physical health of those surveyed.


Summary of activity

The analysis of secondary data drew on existing APMS data, which were collected via a mix of structured and semi-structured questionnaires completed by a sample of the UK population.



Methodologies



Findings

In terms of housing data, the analysis indicated that there was a relationship between household demographic, housing type and condition, and fuel poverty. After accounting for socioeconomic variables, a clear association between poor physical health (especially disability) and aspects of fuel poverty remained. While a clear causal relationship between fuel poverty, poor housing and recognised psychiatric disorders could not be established with certainty, survey participants with a diagnosable common mental disorder (CMD) were more likely to experience all aspects of fuel-related poverty. Conversely, indicators of fuel poverty such as cold housing and reducing fuel use could be used as predictors of a CMD. Because CMD levels were higher among social renters, housing tenure was also a predictor.



Recommendations

  • Fuel poverty should be seen as an important public health issue.
  • Positive strategies should include income maximisation, financial management and energy efficiency measures to improve warmth to reduce the risks of the development of physical and mental health issues.
  • Further research should be carried out to understand exactly how fuel poverty and CMDs are related.


Other themes



Outputs







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