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Coping with the cold – exploring relationships between cold housing, health and social wellbeing in a sample of older people in Ireland

Noëlle Cotter (Public Heath Development Officer based at the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland)
Eugene Monahan (Environmental Health Officer, Dublin City Council, Dublin, Ireland)
Helen McAvoy (Senior Policy Officer at the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland)
Patrick Goodman (Lecturer/Researcher at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland)

Quality in Ageing and Older Adults

ISSN: 1471-7794

Article publication date: 9 March 2012

336

Abstract

Purpose

Older people are vulnerable to fuel poverty on the island of Ireland. This paper seeks to explore the lived experiences of older people in cold weather with a view to informing fuel poverty policy and service responses.

Design/methodology/approach

A postal and online survey utilising an opportunistic sample of older people living in Ireland and linked with a range of services/community and voluntary groups was undertaken in January‐April 2011. Data on the experiences of 722 older people in the cold weather of winter 2010/2011 were analysed in the context of socio‐economic, health, and housing circumstances.

Findings

During the period of extreme cold weather half of the sample reported that they went without other household necessities due to the cost of home‐heating. In general, 62 per cent of those surveyed worried about the cost of home‐heating. Homes considered “too cold” were more likely to lack central heating and experience damp/draughts. Staying indoors, keeping the heating on, and eating hot food/drinks were common responses to cold weather but a diverse range of behaviours was observed. Associations were observed between living in a cold home and higher levels of chronic illness, falls and loneliness, and fewer social activities.

Research limitations/implications

The sample cannot be considered nationally representative; single occupancy and social housing units were overrepresented.

Originality/value

This research found significant associations between living in a cold home/difficulty paying for heating, and aspects of ill‐health and social exclusion. While no causal association can be assumed, this phenomenon has implications for policies supporting healthy ageing.

Keywords

Citation

Cotter, N., Monahan, E., McAvoy, H. and Goodman, P. (2012), "Coping with the cold – exploring relationships between cold housing, health and social wellbeing in a sample of older people in Ireland", Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 38-47. https://doi.org/10.1108/14717791211213607

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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