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The effects on health of a publicly funded domestic heating programme: a prospective controlled study
  1. J Walker1,
  2. R Mitchell2,
  3. M Petticrew3,
  4. S Platt1
  1. 1
    Research Unit in Health, Behaviour and Change (RUHBC), School of Clinical Sciences & Community Health, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  2. 2
    Public Health & Health Policy, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  3. 3
    Public & Environmental Health Research Unit, Dept Public Health & Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. S Platt, Research Unit in Health, Behaviour and Change (RUHBC), School of Clinical Sciences & Community Health, University of Edinburgh, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, UK; steve.platt{at}


Objective: To assess the effect of a publicly funded domestic heating programme on self-reported health.

Design, setting and participants: A prospective controlled study of 1281 households in Scotland receiving new central heating under a publicly funded initiative, and 1084 comparison households not receiving new heating. The main outcome measures were self-reported diagnosis of asthma, bronchitis, eczema, nasal allergy, heart disease, circulatory problems or high blood pressure; number of primary care encounters and hospital contacts in the past year; and SF-36 Health Survey scores.

Results: Usable data were obtained from 61.4% of 3849 respondents originally recruited. Heating recipients reported higher scores on the SF-36 Physical Functioning scale (difference 2.51; 95% CI 0.67 to 4.37) and General Health scale (difference 2.57; 95% CI 0.90 to 4.34). They were less likely to report having received a first diagnosis of heart disease (OR 0.69; 95% CI 0.52 to 0.91) or high blood pressure (OR 0.77; 95% CI 0.61 to 0.97), but the groups did not differ significantly in use of primary care or hospital services.

Conclusions: Provision of central heating was associated with significant positive effects on general health and physical functioning; however, effect sizes were small. Evidence of a reduced risk of first diagnosis with heart disease or high blood pressure must be interpreted with caution, due to the self-reported nature of the outcomes, the limited time period and the failure to detect any difference in health service use.

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  • Funding: The research on which this paper draws was funded by the Scottish Government.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Ethics approval: The study protocol was approved by the Faculty of Law, Business and Social Science Ethics Committee at the University of Glasgow.

  • Disclaimer: The views expressed in the publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Scottish Ministers.