The Stark truth:

Family orange

Overly long preamble

As far as family mottos go, ‘Winter is Coming’ is a bit dry. Whatever you think about the humourless House Stark stoics in northern Westeros, the Game of Thrones family sure come prepared for the winter chill.

Australian households on the other hand take more of a ride-it-out approach to winter. (See that segue? Alert the Pulitzer judges immediately!) While the Europeans have boilers pumping hot water through radiators located in every room, double-glazed windows and foot-thick walls to boot, we Aussies huddle in front of pathetic blow heaters in houses with wind whistling through the floorboards. 

Blow heaters are like the grill setting on a fan oven: burn the top, leave the rest under-heated.

The research

In short, although winter this year has been glorious, when the sun sets we scramble towards improvised warming solutions.

Traveller rugs, Ugg boots and cheap fan heaters aside, winter in Australia has serious health effects and our flippancy costs lives. Cold temperatures cause 6.5% of deaths in Australia, according to a study published in The Lancet in 2015. 

Amazingly, Australia fares worse than the far colder climes of Canada (4.46%) and Sweden (3.69%).

“The majority of winter deaths are due to cold exposure via an increase in blood pressure,” wrote Adrian Barnett, Professor of Public Health at Queensland University of Technology in The Conversation

Barnett links Australia’s lower indoor temperatures compared to the likes of Sweden (18° in Oz versus a cosy Swedish 23°) to our higher death rates.

In short: Swedes prepare like they’re defending The Wall with the Night’s Watch, Aussies throw on a cardie.

Turn up the heat for a healthier you

When it comes to feeling healthier this winter, the research says, do as the Swedes do.

Increasing indoor temperatures through insulation and heating lowers blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart and lung and deaths. Barnett writes that this also “improves self-rated health and leads to fewer days off school and work.”

There you have it. There’s a clear link to staying warm and being healthy. Another great reason to stay warm this winter.

Heating tips:

  • Use door snakes
  • Keep those curtains and blinds closed to trap in heat
  • Wall and underfloor insulation make a big difference. Check with your state government to see what incentives are on offer.

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