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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2009 Jan;63(1):12-7. doi: 10.1136/jech.2008.074096. Epub 2008 Sep 18.

The effects on health of a publicly funded domestic heating programme: a prospective controlled study.

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Research Unit in Health, Behaviour and Change (RUHBC), School of Clinical Sciences & Community Health, University of Edinburgh, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, UK.



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


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.


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.


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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