Living in a home that is too cold kills more people in England and Wales than road accidents, alcohol or drug abuse, new analysis has found.
The number of “cold homes” deaths in 2013 has been estimated at 7,400; nearly five times higher than deaths from road and road accidents (1,574), and more than carbon monoxide, fire and assault deaths combined.
It was also slightly more than the number who died from alcohol abuse (7,059).
Cold homes have killed 46,700 people in the UK last five years, the research from the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) revealed using official data.
Poor heating can cause lung disease, asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia
A group of over 200 organisations backing the fuel poverty campaign Energy Bill Revolution are calling on the government to tackle this “silent killer” by spending more on energy efficiency in homes.
Its recent video, a spoof of ‘Let It Go’ from Disney’s Frozen called ‘Let Them Freeze’, went viral in February.
The research used Office of National Statistics (ONS), National Records of Scotland and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency information.
To calculate the number of cold homes deaths – which is not broken down separately - the research used the figure of 30% of all excess winter deaths, a measure recommended for Europe by the World Health Organisation.
Over 44,000 people have signed a petition on campaign site Avaaz which will be delivered to George Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander today, demanding that all parties use infrastructure funds to invest in home energy efficiency in their manifestos for the general election.
Sam Barratt, Campaign Director of Avaaz said: "David Cameron may think insulating homes is 'green crap', but having a warm home can be the difference between life and death for the most vulnerable in our society. It really is a disgrace that only Estonia has worse fuel poverty than Britain in Europe."
Selected causes of death in 2013, England and Wales using ONS data
(cold homes extrapolated from excess winter deaths data)
Air travel accidents 18
Carbon monoxide 197
Road and rail accidents 1,574
Drug misuse 1,947
Motor neuron disease 2,170
Skin cancer 2,641
Brain cancer 3,567
Parkinson's disease 4,518
Related to alcohol 7,059
Related to cold homes 7,400
Prostate cancer 9,726
Breast cancer 10,230
The new figures also estimate that this winter (2014/15) was the deadliest of the last five years: there are thought to have been two thirds more cold homes deaths than average.
Party manifestos should be published this week, and the campaign urges political parties not to repeat the failures of the coalition government, which, it says, include cutting schemes that aimed to help people with energy bills, such as the Energy Companies Obligation and the Warm Front scheme.
The most effective way to bring down energy bills is to install energy efficiency measures that can save a household more than £400 per year, the campaign claims – yet the amount of support for energy efficiency to people having problems paying for heating has plummeted 80% in the last two years.
Ed Matthew, director of the Energy Bill Revolution, said: “Cold homes are one of the most deadly killers in Britain today, but this silent menace is too often ignored because it happens behind closed doors. The evidence shows that insulation support for the fuel poor has plummeted through the floor during this Parliament. The Government must step up and put a stop to these unnecessary deaths, by committing infrastructure funds to home energy efficiency and ending our cold homes crisis once and for all.”
Cold homes cost the NHS £1.36 billion every year, according to Age-UK. Leaky and cold homes are a cause of illnesses including chronic lung disease, asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia.
According to consultants Cambridge Econometrics, investing 3% of the UK’s infrastructure budget in energy efficiency would take two million homes out of fuel poverty by 2020, and increase UK GDP by £13.9bn a year by 2030.