Fuel poverty harms mental health too

13 February 2022 by Jason Quinn

Living in a cold house you can’t afford to heat causes physical health problems, up to and including premature death. There’s plenty of evidence supporting this and I’m grateful to researchers like Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman and her colleagues at the University of Otago for (a) doing the research in this country and (b) communicating their research findings to a broad audience.

What I hadn’t previously considered is that living in fuel poverty has implications for people’s mental health. (Yes it’s obvious now it’s been pointed out to me.) This was one of the findings in a recent paper from the UK titled, “Getting warmer: Fuel poverty, objective and subjective health and well-being”, which considers the link between fuel poverty, health and well-being outcomes. You can read the summary and abstract here or a media release about the findings here.

I’m very glad that Kāinga Ora has stepped up its game with regards to high-performance social housing. This will provide the most seriously disadvantaged folks in New Zealand with warm, dry housing that will be extremely cheap to heat (and cool). The benefit to mental and physical health stands to be substantial.


Apostolos Davillas, Andrew Burlinson, Hui-Hsuan Liu. Getting warmer: Fuel poverty, objective and subjective health and well-being. Energy Economics, 2022; 106: 105794 DOI: 10.1016/j.eneco.2021.105794

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