More than 3,000 people are dying each year in the UK because they cannot afford to properly heat their homes.
A new study from National Energy Action (NEA) and climate-change charity E3G has revealed the extent of the fuel poverty crisis, with Britain reportedly having the second-worst rate of excess winter deaths in Europe.
As reported by The Independent, the charities are now calling on the government to do more to tackle the issue and end the “entirely preventable” tragedy.
Pedro Guertler of E3G, who co-authored the research, said: “This epidemic is entirely preventable and E3G and NEA are calling on the UK Government to reinstate public capital investment in home energy efficiency to fix the cold homes crisis.
“As well as ending needless suffering and premature deaths, it would also address a wide range of national infrastructure priorities.”
The research has been published to coincide with Fuel Poverty Awareness Day today (February 23) which highlights the problems faced by those struggling to keep warm in their homes.
The report looked at fatality numbers between December and March compared with the four months before and after, across 30 countries over five winters.
A total of 168,000 excess winter deaths have been recorded in the UK over that five-year period. Of the countries studied, only Ireland has a higher proportion of people dying due to cold weather.
Almost 17,000 of those people are estimated to have died as a direct result of fuel poverty and a further 36,000 deaths are due to conditions linked to living in a cold home.
The number of people dying due to the cold each year is similar to the amount who die from breast cancer or prostate cancer.
Living in cold conditions also increases the risk of health problems including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as falls and injuries. People experiencing fuel poverty can also struggle with poor mental health which can lead to social isolation and even suicide.
A 2012 study by Age UK calculated that cold homes cost the NHS £1.36bn per year.