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The short-term health and psychosocial impacts of domestic energy efficiency investments in low-income areas: a controlled before and after study

Grey, Charlotte N. B., Jiang, Shiyu, Nascimento, Christina, Rodgers, Sarah E., Johnson, Rhodri, Lyons, Ronan A. and Poortinga, Wouter ORCID: 2017. The short-term health and psychosocial impacts of domestic energy efficiency investments in low-income areas: a controlled before and after study. BMC Public Health 17 (1) , 140. 10.1186/s12889-017-4075-4

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Background Research suggests that living in fuel poverty and cold homes contributes to poor physical and mental health, and that interventions targeted at those living in poor quality housing may lead to health improvements. However, little is known about the socio-economic intermediaries and processes that contribute to better health. This study examined the relationship between energy efficiency investments to homes in low-income areas and mental and physical health of residents, as well as a number of psychosocial outcomes likely to be part of the complex relationship between energy efficiency measures and health outcomes. Methods A quasi-experimental field study with a controlled pretest-posttest design was conducted (intervention n = 364; control n = 418) to investigate the short-term health and psychosocial impacts of a domestic energy efficiency programme that took place across Wales between 2013 and 2015. Survey data were collected in the winters before and after installation of energy efficiency measures, including external wall insulation. The study used a multilevel modelling repeated measures approach to analyse the data. Results The energy efficiency programme was not associated with improvements in physical and mental health (using the SF-12v2 physical and mental health composite scales) or reductions in self-reported respiratory and asthma symptoms. However, the programme was associated with improved subjective wellbeing (B = 0.38, 95% CI 0.12 to 0.65), as well as improvements in a number of psychosocial outcomes, including increased thermal satisfaction (OR = 3.83, 95% CI 2.40 to 5.90), reduced reports of putting up with feeling cold to save heating costs (OR = 0.49, CI = 0.25 to 0.94), fewer financial difficulties (B = −0.15, 95% CI -0.25 to -0.05), and reduced social isolation (OR = 0.32, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.77). Conclusion The study showed that investing in energy efficiency in low-income communities does not lead to self-reported health improvements in the short term. However, investments increased subjective wellbeing and were linked to a number of psychosocial intermediaries that are conducive to better health. It is likely that better living conditions contribute to improvements in health outcomes in the longer term. Better understanding of the impacts on recipients of energy efficiency schemes, could improve targeting of future fuel poverty policies.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Architecture
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Additional Information: This paper is published under the terms of the CC-BY licence.
Publisher: BMC
ISSN: 1471-2458
Funders: NIHR
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 March 2017
Date of Acceptance: 26 January 2017
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 02:58

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