Quality housing standards can help save lives in winter, says Christine Murray
This season is marked, every year, by obituaries in the paper and the passing of loved ones. For many of us, Christmas will not be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. There are approximately 18 per cent more deaths in the UK during the four winter months than the rest of the year. This seasonal variation is a global phenomenon, although percentage increases vary from country to country, from five to 30 per cent.
Interestingly, along with fuel poverty, healthcare and socio-economic status, there is a strong correlation between a country’s seasonal death rate and the thermal efficiency of its homes. According to a study by JD Healy of the Urban Institute Ireland, housing standards are a key influence on the rate of seasonal deaths, which explains why Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland’s rates are lower than the UK’s, despite much colder winter temperatures.
Healy’s study tracks the percentage of houses with cavity wall insulation, double glazing, and roof and floor insulation. In Sweden, where all homes are insulated and double glazed, deaths in winter are 12 per cent higher than for the rest of the year; in Portugal, where just six per cent of homes are insulated and three per cent have double glazing, deaths rise by 28 per cent.
Apologies for the grim subject matter, but these statistics justify quality housing standards. This month, reports revealed that an alarmingly high death rate was putting strain on the NHS, and it’s been estimated that fuel poverty costs the service £1 billion per year. Another reason why there is a critical need, not just for more homes, but better homes.
- For more information on the AJ More Homes, Better Homes campaign, visit TheAJ.co.uk/Morehomes