Opinion Former Article

UK has sixth-highest rate of excess winter deaths in Europe

  •       Research released today reveals that the UK has the sixth-worst long-term rate of excess winter mortality out of 30 European countries. In addition, when taking into account cold weather beyond just the winter months, the UK ranks second-worst out of 30 European countries.
  •      Over the last five years there has been an average of 32,000 excess winter deaths in the UK every year. Of these, 9,700 die due to a cold home – the same as the number of people who die from breast or prostate cancer each year. The fact that UK homes are amongst the least energy efficient in Europe confirms that these deaths are preventable.
  •      The new analysis by independent climate think tank E3G and National Energy Action (NEA), the UK’s leading fuel poverty organisation, is released on Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, the national day highlighting the problems faced by those struggling to keep warm in their homes.

Pedro Guertler, co-author of the report from E3G comments:

“The UK has one of the worst records on cold homes-related deaths in Europe and it is not only a public health tragedy, it is a national embarrassment. This epidemic is entirely preventable and E3G and NEA are calling on the UK Government to reinstate public capital investment in home energy efficiency to fix the cold homes crisis. As well as ending needless suffering and premature deaths, it would also address a wide range of national infrastructure priorities.”

Alongside existing private investment, E3G and NEA are calling on the Treasury to use public infrastructure capital – as opposed to revenue expenditure – to co-fund area-based energy efficiency schemes to systematically improve the quality of UK housing in every part of the country [8]. The report says this is essential if the UK is to meet its fuel poverty and carbon emission reduction targets. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already been developing these programmes with great success but the UK Government has yet to back similar programmes in England and the number of insulation measures installed in UK homes has crashed by 90% since 2012 [9] due to ill-judged cuts to home energy improvement programmes.

Peter Smith, the co-author from NEA adds:

“As the UK experiences one of the harshest winters for several years, it is important to remember that this causes needless hardship, places health at risk and leads to premature death. Beyond the terrible scale of cold related winter deaths, people experiencing fuel poverty can also struggle with poor mental health and this can sadly lead to total social isolation and even suicide. This preventable tragedy must end. The UK Government must support the strong case for the re-introduction of adequate public capital investment – a necessity if we are to make the UK’s homes warmer and safe for human habitation.”

The warning comes on NEA’s Fuel Poverty Awareness Day (taking place on 23 February). The day of awareness follows NEA’s warning late last year that low income families have little to no financial safety net and the gap between their incomes and what they need to spend to meet the essential cost of living can be as much as £9,000 [10].


Available for comment
For further information on the detail of this release contact Peter Smith (peter.smith@nea.org.uk) and Ed Matthew (ed.matthew@e3g.org) or call 07595 780893 or 07867 314004 respectively.

The report is available to download at: http://www.nea.org.uk/resources/e3g-nea-cold-homes-excess-winter-deaths after the embargo. For an advanced copy please contact Peter, or Sahdia.Hassen@nea.org.uk


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