Housing improvements, fuel payment difficulties and mental health in deprived communities
This paper examines the effect of warmth interventions on self-reported difficulties affording fuel bills against a backdrop of rising mental health problems, using a longitudinal sample in Glasgow, UK. Following a period of rising fuel prices and stagnating wages, fuel poverty is high on the political agenda and is a particular issue for those living in deprived communities who may be most affected by rising fuel bills and reductions in employment, wages and incomes in the recent period of recession and austerity. Since 2006, the reporting of difficulties paying for fuel bills has been rising in the study population. Alongside fuel prices and income, energy efficiency is the third key driver of fuel poverty. As such the research seeks to establish whether warmth interventions, designed to improve the energy efficiency of homes can provide protection against worsening financial difficulties and lead to better mental health outcomes for residents. Results suggest that those who report greater frequency of financial difficulty also report worsening mental health. There is limited impact of energy efficiency improvements on perceived fuel affordability difficulties, and where there is an effect, central heating is related to more frequent financial hardships.