Thousands in poverty suffering from health problems in Barking and Dagenham

Thousands of people living in poverty are suffering from heart or breathing issues in Barking and Dagenham, new estimates suggest.

File photo dated of a 19/11/14 of an elderly lady with her electric fire on at home in Liverpool. A "significant humanitarian crisis with millions of children's development blighted" is on the way if the Government does not act to prevent more than half of UK households plunging into fuel poverty, experts have warned. Issue date: Thursday September 1, 2022.
File photo dated of a 19/11/14 of an elderly lady with her electric fire on at home in Liverpool. A "significant humanitarian crisis with millions of children's development blighted" is on the way if the Government does not act to prevent more than half of UK households plunging into fuel poverty, experts have warned. Issue date: Thursday September 1, 2022.
File photo dated of a 19/11/14 of an elderly lady with her electric fire on at home in Liverpool. A "significant humanitarian crisis with millions of children's development blighted" is on the way if the Government does not act to prevent more than half of UK households plunging into fuel poverty, experts have warned. Issue date: Thursday September 1, 2022.

Thousands of people living in poverty are suffering from heart or breathing issues in Barking and Dagenham, new estimates suggest.

The findings come as public health organisations warn of disastrous consequences if people cannot heat their homes this winter.

New estimates from the Office for National Statistics suggest there were around 62,610 people living in poverty in private households in Barking and Dagenham as of March 2021 – 4,750 (8%) of whom had a cardiovascular or respiratory condition.

The ONS used various sources to come up with the figures, including data from the 2021 census and information on health conditions collected during the coronavirus pandemic.

Though the research did not find that rates of such conditions were higher for those in poverty than for the general population, the ONS said that as people in poverty are more exposed to the cold, they are more likely to be hospitalised or die as a result of them.

Last year, a separate study from the Institute of Health Equity at University College London cautioned that living in fuel poverty can have "dangerous consequences" on health, particularly among children.

Talking about this study, Sir Michael Marmot, director of the institute, said: “Warm homes, nutritious food and a stable job are vital building blocks for health.”

The report warns that alongside higher exposure to viruses, dust and mould as a result of the cold, living in poverty also comes with psychological pressures.

“If we are constantly worrying about making ends meet it puts a strain on our bodies, resulting in increased stress, with effects on the heart and blood vessels and a disordered immune system,” Sir Michael added.

Of the 10.8 million people living in poverty across England as of March 2021, 1.3 million were estimated to be suffering from heart or breathing issues – with a particularly high concentration in coastal areas and in the North West.

Across London, around 180,375 people (9%) who were estimated to be living in poverty had heart or breathing problems.

A recent survey for the Royal Society of Public Health found that 41% of the population at large are worried that the cost-of-living crisis is impacting their physical health.

Responding to the findings, the organisation's chief executive, William Roberts, said that the UK "cannot afford to be on the back foot" when it comes to tackling health inequalities.

“The cost-of-living crisis is a public health crisis and prevention of ill-health is key to supporting the financial growth and wellbeing of the nation,” he added.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We have prioritised health and social care in the Autumn Statement with a further £8 billion, on top of previous record funding, to ensure people can access high quality care as soon as possible.”

“We are supporting people with the cost-of-living crisis, with £1,200 of support for the most vulnerable households and have provided more than £3.4 billion this year to local authorities in England to tackle issues including alcohol use, obesity and smoking,” they added.