It’s very interesting to read the recent press release from the Energy Agency who have, over the last 10 years and in partnership with Glasgow University and NHS Ayrshire & Arran and on behalf of South and East Ayrshire Councils, have been conducting a study into the impacts of home energy efficiency measures on resident’s wellbeing and hospital admissions in South West Scotland. The two part study took place over ten years monitoring the health of occupant’s pre energy efficiency works and post installation of External Wall Insulation (EWI).
Energy Agency Press Release
The press release reads as follows:
Health gains from home energy efficiency measures: The missing evidence in the UK net-zero policy debate
In partnership with Glasgow University and NHS Ayrshire & Arran, Energy Agency conducted research into the impacts of home energy efficiency measures on resident’s wellbeing and hospital admissions in South West Scotland. The two part study took place over ten years monitoring the health of occupant’s pre energy efficiency works and post installation of External Wall Insulation (EWI). This work, on behalf of South and East Ayrshire Councils, is managed by the Energy Agency.
After a lengthy peer review process, the results have now been published in Public Health in Practice https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666535223000423?via%3Dihub
The findings suggest ‘a small but significant improvement in the health of residents’ and provides evidence that home insulation improvements not only lead to reduced emissions, lower energy bills and a lower carbon footprint, but also a corresponding reduction in hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.
This work also supports the All Party Parliamentary Group for Healthy Homes and Buildings’ call for better measurement of the economic and social impacts of healthier homes. It is one of the few UK Studies to provide evidence that shows the multiple benefits from energy efficiency works; reducing energy demand (and thus household bills), contributing to net zero goals, and alleviating pressures on health service bed-spaces. This is an exemplar of joined-up policy with political and practical benefits.
Liz Marquis, Director Energy Agency, said: “We are delighted that close working with partners allows government funding to be used as effectively as possible to consider all aspects of housing, health and energy to benefit everyone. This practical work also provides real data analysed by academics and the health sector showing the many benefits.”
Elaine Caldow, Public Health Programme Lead: “We know that in order to improve health and wellbeing and tackle health inequalities, we need to ensure everyone has access to a warm, dry, safe, affordable home which meets their needs. The pathway between housing and health is complex, however, home improvements which increase warmth and energy efficiency have the potential to improve health and wellbeing.
“The Public Health Team in NHS Ayrshire & Arran has been working with the Energy Agency, in partnership with South and East Ayrshire Councils, to observe the impacts of the Energy Efficient Scotland: Area Based Scheme on health and wellbeing. This scheme aims to improve the energy efficiency of homes and reduce fuel poverty in the most deprived communities.
“Within NHS Ayrshire & Arran, we looked at secondary data over a period of time for hospital admissions for conditions known to be affected by cold or damp homes and observed relatively lower hospital admissions for both respiratory and cardiovascular and circulatory conditions in the areas which received the home improvements, compared to the rest of the health board area. The study also found improvements in thermal comfort following external wall insulation, which was associated with self-reported improvements in physical health. The study is a further step in our understanding of how improving the warmth and the physical environment of our homes can contribute to health outcomes.”
The study examined the health gains from a programme of external wall insulation works to homes in south-west Scotland, and in particular the impact upon hospitalisations for respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Furthermore, to consider how evidence on health outcomes could form part of the debate around actions to meet net-zero goals in the UK.
A two-part study. Part one involved before-and-after interviews with 229 recipient households. The second part comprised an observational study of hospital admissions in 184 postcode areas.
Across three years, interviews collected thermal comfort and self-reported health data(Sf-36) in the winter months prior to installation, and again in follow-up interviews the next winter. Standarised monthly data on non-elective admissions for each set of conditions were compared between the intervention postcodes and the wider health board area over a ten year period.
Following receipt of wall insulation, inability to achieve thermal comfort in winter reduced by two-thirds. Improvements in thermal comfort were associated with gains in physical health scores. Relative standardised admissions fell in the treatment areas, remaining lower than the district-wide standardised rate for the majority of a five year period, this effect ending during the Covid-19 pandemic. The impact on admissions was greater for respiratory conditions than for cardiovascular conditions.
A weak policy commitment to energy efficiency could be strengthened with further evidence of the cost-savings and reduced hospital bed demand resulting from insulations works. The potential health gain may also encourage more home owners to participate.
The published full report can be accessed here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666535223000423?via%3Dihub
The Energy Agency
The Energy Agency is a charitable organisation providing free, impartial and expert advice to households, businesses and communities, covering energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable transport.
Their aim is to reduce energy consumption and promote sustainability locally, thus contributing to national targets.
More information can be found on their website: https://www.energyagency.org.uk/