The impact of household energy poverty on the mental health of parents of young children
Journal of Public Health
Energy poverty, typified by cold homes and/or an inability to afford energy bills, presents risks to the mental health of occupants. Parents of young children may be especially susceptible to a mental health toll from energy poverty since they have a significant care obligation and spend much of their day at home.
Data from the Growing Up in Ireland study inform this longitudinal analysis.
A 1.64 greater odds of maternal depression were estimated for households containing young children characterized by energy poverty [P = 0.000; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.31–2.05]. For energy poor households with older children (9 years and above), the odds of maternal depression were also higher [odds ratio (OR) 1.74, P = 0.001; 95% CI: 1.27–2.39]. Fathers of young children had greater odds of depression in energy poor households (OR 1.59, P = 0.002; 95% CI: 1.19–2.12), though the deleterious effect on mental health was not statistically significant for fathers of older children.
Energy poverty increases the likelihood of depression in parents. These findings merit policy attention since a mental health burden is in itself important, and more widely, parental well-being can influence child development and outcomes.