Going into the winter this year, millions of people in the UK will be experiencing some of the most difficult impacts of the cost-of-living crisis, and on top of the economic hardships, it will also impact people’s physical and mental health.
It is known that viruses and infections thrive in colder conditions, as indicated in Dr Peter Palese’s research which uncovered that the human strain of influenza transmitted between guinea pigs would live longer in low humidity, and at low temperatures, regardless of the guinea pigs’ immunity.
Moreover, the principle applies to other viruses, notably COVID-19 and its highly transmissible strands like Omicron. We saw such a trend last winter when the rate of COVID-19 transmissions spiked, reaching a peak in January 2021, when COVID-19 related deaths were also at a maximum.
Vaccinations will help counteract transmission rates this winter, but the cost-of-living crisis will add further difficulty for working people.
The latest figures from the ONS’s (Office for National Statistics) CPI (Consumer Prices Index) show us that electricity and gas prices are at the highest they have been in the past two decades, and since last year they have both increased by over 60%. During the winter months, household bills for electricity and gas are higher; more energy is used to heat homes and an increase in hot water usage are the most common contributors.
So, this winter many people will be forced to take extra measures to save costs, and this can be detrimental to their physical and mental health.
For example, people are more likely to keep windows closed to keep heat in this winter, which can cause poor ventilation preventing the effective removal of virus particles most prominent in respiratory diseases like flu and covid. Furthermore, households being more conscious of water usage may deter people from cleaning their hands as regularly.
As well as the effects of people being careful with their use of utilities, the rise in bills will leave people with less to spend on other essentials such as food, and this can cause malnourishment, and increased susceptibility to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, alongside chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and lung disease. Yet mental health is at risk too. During the winter months there will be shorter days and less sunlight in general due to the climate we live in unfortunately.
But the fact that households may try to save on electricity by using their lights less may exacerbate vitamin D deficiencies, by reducing the availability of supplementary artificial UVB light, impacting people’s mental health as UVB light is essential to increasing serotonin levels and counteracting long term depression.
While this may not be the reality for everyone, working people will likely be disproportionately affected. While on average a middle-income person will spend 5% of what they earn on energy, a lower income person will spend 33% of their income on the same essentials. This cannot continue to be our reality.
The reason we even ended up in such a crisis can be pinpointed to the incompetency of the ever-changing, useless, selfish, Conservative government, who will continue to put their personal interests ahead of the working people in the UK. What can this government do when they have no clue about the impact of their actions?
“Room Thermostat” by www.trek.today is licensed under CC BY 2.0.