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An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Perceptions, Attitudes and Experiences of Energy Vulnerability among Urban Young Adults

University of Salford
Date: 2015


The main objective of this research was to undertake an in-depth qualitative exploration of the lived experience of fuel poverty among young adult households, an underrepresented demographic group within the existing literature and yet one that is disproportionately affected by this social problem.

Key research Question

How do young adult households experience energy vulnerability in the context of managing an independent home?

  • How do young adults describe their experiences of living independently, and in what contexts do these experiences occur (for example, tenure type and household formation)?
  • How do young adults construct and make sense of their experiences of managing the home independently, and, within these experiences, how do they reflect on their relationship with energy?
  • What is the nature of young adults’ perceptions of, attitudes towards, and experiences of energy vulnerability?
  • What are the specific support needs of young adult households in terms of fuel poverty and energy vulnerability, and how can support be better tailored to their needs?

Summary of activity

The research involved six semi-structured interviews with young adults who had experience of living independently in Salford and being in receipt of out-of-work benefits (Jobseeker’s Allowance/Employment and Support Allowance).


Interview transcripts were analysed using a psychological approach known as interpretive phenomenological analysis. The focus of the analysis was directed towards subjective experiences of how domestic energy is used and paid for, as well as energy-related challenges and vulnerabilities. Multiple experiences of and exposure to conditions typical of fuel poverty were disclosed, including self-disconnection of the energy supply, energy debts, cold homes and unrelenting challenges associated with damp and laundry practices. A detailed discussion of the findings is presented under three themes: ‘establishing the independent home’, ‘threats to home comfort’ and ‘energy and coping’. Limitations and suggestions for further research are considered, including the potential to further define the homogeneity of the sample by considering certain sub-demographic groups, such as young adult migrants, lone parents or those within specific household formations.


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