Thousands of people living in poverty are suffering from heart or breathing issues in Barrow, 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 12,890 people living in poverty in private households in Barrow as of March 2021 – 2,220 (17%) of whom had a cardiovascular or respiratory condition.
Poverty is defined as living in a household with an equivalised net household income, after housing costs, of less than 60 per cent of the median income.
The ONS used various sources to come up with the figures, including data from the 2021 census to find characteristics of people living in poverty such as region, socioeconomic classification, the highest educational attainment within a household, household size, tenure and the number of adults employed. Information on health conditions was collected during the 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.
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.