Cold homes linked to poor health among the over 50s

November 12, 2001

Older people living in inadequately heated homes are three times as likely to suffer from chronic ill health, reports a study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The research included 858 participants who were surveyed as part of the West of Scotland Twenty 07 Study in 1991. The average age of the respondents was 59. The survey included a range of questions on socioeconomic factors and chronic illness. Respondents were also asked to rate their own health.

Over 70 per cent of respondents reported one or more chronic conditions, and over half said that this limited their activities. Four out of 10 rated their health as either "fair" or "poor." Social factors known to be associated with poor health were clearly evident in the survey responses, but so too was at least one housing factor.

And the survey also showed that those who reported being cold most of the time during the winter were over three times as likely to suffer from chronic ill health that limited their daily activities. And they were almost five times as likely to rate their own health as poor or fair.

The authors conclude that although living in a cold house does not necessarily cause ill health, it is likely to make any underlying condition worse, and may even lead to premature death. They also suggest that people with chronic ill health may need warmer housing to compensate for the long periods of activity their condition forces on them.
[Indoor heating, house conditions, and health 2001; 55: 928-9]

BMJ Specialty Journals

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