A 10-year study into the impact of home energy efficiency measures in South and East Ayrshire resident has identified  ‘a small but significant' improvement in the health of residents.

Energy Agency conducted the research in partnership with Glasgow University and NHS Ayrshire and Arran.

The two-part study, on behalf of South Ayrshire Council and East Ayrshire Council,  monitored the health of occupants' pre-energy efficiency works and post installation of External Wall Insulation (EWI).

The findings provide evidence that home insulation improvements not only led to reduced emissions, lower energy bills and a lower carbon footprint, but also a corresponding reduction in hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

This work also supports the All Party Parliamentary Group for Healthy Homes and Buildings’ call for better measurement of the economic and social impacts of healthier homes.

It is one of the few UK studies to provide evidence that shows the multiple benefits from energy efficiency works; reducing energy demand (and thus household bills), contributing to net zero goals, and alleviating pressures on health service bed-spaces. 

Elaine Caldow, public health programme lead, added: "We know that in order to improve health and wellbeing and tackle health inequalities, we need to ensure everyone has access to a warm, dry, safe, affordable home which meets their needs.

"The pathway between housing and health is complex, however home improvements which increase warmth and energy efficiency have the potential to improve health and wellbeing.

"The Public Health Team in NHS Ayrshire and Arran has been working with the Energy Agency, in partnership with South and East Ayrshire Councils, to observe the impacts of the Energy Efficient Scotland: Area Based Scheme on health and wellbeing.

"This scheme aims to improve the energy efficiency of homes and reduce fuel poverty in the most deprived communities.

"Within NHS Ayrshire and Arran, we looked at secondary data over a period of time for hospital admissions for conditions known to be affected by cold or damp homes and observed relatively lower hospital admissions for both respiratory and cardiovascular and circulatory conditions in the areas which received the home improvements, compared to the rest of the health board area.

"The study also found improvements in thermal comfort following external wall insulation, which was associated with self-reported improvements in physical health.

"It is a further step in our understanding of how improving the warmth and the physical environment of our homes can contribute to health outcomes."

Liz Marquis, director of Energy Agency, said: "We are delighted that close working with partners allows government funding to be used as effectively as possible to consider all aspects of housing, health and energy to benefit everyone.

"This practical work also provides real data analysed by academics and the health sector showing the many benefits."

Energy Agency is a non-profit making organisation providing energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable transport advice to householders, businesses and communities in south west Scotland.

The study can be found at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.puhip.2023.100396.