In 2014/15, there were 43,900 more deaths in England between the months of December 2014 and March 2015 than were observed over the rest of the year - a large proportion of these are thought to be due to cold weather.
Cold temperatures can cause physiological effects such as thicker blood, increase in blood pressure and tightening of the airways - making people who already have chronic conditions even more vulnerable. Cold temperatures also impact mental health, making those exposed to low temperatures more likely to suffer depression and anxiety.
There is a link between the onset of cold weather and deaths from both heart attacks and respiratory illnesses. Older people are particularly at risk as they do not feel the cold until their body temperature falls. People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) also have a significantly increased risk of ill-health and hospitalisation during periods of cold weather and high levels of circulating respiratory infections.
Who is at Risk?
There are a number of different groups of people who are particularly at risk from cold weather, either because of their age, lifestyle or because of a health condition.
Generally speaking, pregnant women, people of non-working age and children under five are most at risk of the health effects of cold homes. People with physical disabilities may also find it particularly difficult to remain warm in a cold home.
People with respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, or smokers, are particularly at risk of the effects of cold temperatures. Similarly, people with pre-existing cardiovascular problems or major, life-affecting illness need to be especially careful of exposure to the cold. Ideal Temperature in the Home:
It is recommended that the home is heated to a temperature of at least 18C in order to avoid the risks of exposure to cold temperatures. In the living room, a temperature of 21C may be required (due to the amount of inactive time spent in this room).
If someone is particularly old or suffers a health condition that places them at increased risk of illness due to cold, a temperature of 21C may be required throughout the home.
What You Should Do:
If you are concerned that you or someone you know is suffering fuel poverty and placing themselves at risk, you should seek advice. If you or the person you are concerned about is a Brighton & Hove resident please contact the SHINE Project and we will either signpost you to the correct advice provider or, if you are a council tenant, provide that advice ourselves. Contact us here