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The Impact of Fuel Poverty and Housing Conditions on Scotland's Health – A Review of Available Literature

Energy Action Scotland
Date: 1998


Scotland has particular challenges when it comes to tackling fuel poverty, housing and health. Although considerable amounts of research have been conducted in Scotland and the UK as a whole, a general summary has not been produced. Such an overview would enable an awareness of the current state of knowledge and allow future work to be targeted more effectively.

Key research Question

To gain an insight into the character and extent of fuel poverty in Scotland, how poor housing may have a negative impact on health, and what policies and programmes are in place that might address these challenges, particularly any aimed at improving housing stock and supporting low-income households to afford heating, with a view to providing an evidence base.

Summary of activity

The review was a working paper intended to inform a wider research study on fuel poverty and health in Scotland by Energy Action Scotland. This was published in 1999 as ‘Fuel Poverty and Health in Paisley’.



Fuel poverty and housing conditions: As in other parts of the UK, around a third of Scottish households live in fuel poverty, and vulnerable households predominantly occupy properties with the worst energy efficiency ratings. Yet because of Scotland’s geography and climate, homes need to consume significantly more energy to maintain the same temperature in comparison with those in England. The puzzle of why expenditure on fuel and levels of fuel poverty are no higher than those elsewhere in the UK despite this greater energy use is explained by the fact that in reality average temperatures in Scottish properties are lower; that is, they are being underheated.

Health impacts: Home temperatures would appear to have a connection to excess winter deaths; as indoor temperatures have risen, the number of excess deaths has fallen. Damp housing is linked to respiratory illness – where improvements are made, conditions are ameliorated. In general, poor health is associated with deprivation and poverty, and the west of Scotland fares worst on this measure.

Current initiatives: Some progress has been made in improving energy efficiency through a variety of local and national programmes, but investment remains too limited to make a meaningful impact. Improvements to housing quality are more cost-effective than subsidising fuel.


  • More research should be undertaken on the financial implications for households and services of living in poor housing and experiencing negative health outcomes as a result.
  • A significant increase in investment by government is needed to remedy the problems.

Other themes



Find out more about our Fuel Poverty themes. Discover our projects and related reports.