An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the
perceptions, attitudes and experiences of energy
vulnerability among urban young adults
, MSc by research thesis, University of Salford.
In England, fuel poverty (FP) is estimated to affect as many as 2.35 million households.
‘Young adult households’ – those where the oldest member is younger than twenty-five
– are disproportionately more likely to be fuel poor than any other age group. However,
research focused specifically on this demographic group, particularly among young adult,
non-student households, remains almost entirely absent from the evidence base.
Contributing to this gap, the present research adopted a qualitative methodological
approach to explore how urban young adults construct and make sense of their
relationship with domestic energy as independent household members. Using
Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, six semi-structured interviews were
undertaken with young adults who were not in education and had recent or current
experience of living independently within an urban context (Salford, Greater
Manchester). Analytic focus was directed towards the subjective experiences of how
domestic energy is used and paid for, as well as energy related challenges and
vulnerabilities. Multiple experiences of and exposure to conditions typical of FP were
disclosed, including: self-disconnection of energy supply, energy debts, cold homes and
unrelenting challenges associated with damp and laundry practices. Detailed discussion
of the findings is presented under three emergent themes: ‘establishing the independent
home’, ‘threats to home comfort’ and ‘energy and coping’. Limitations and suggestions for
further research are considered, including the potential to further define the
homogeneity of the sample by considering certain sub-demographic groups, such as
young adult migrants, lone-parents or those within specific household formations.
Keywords: fuel poverty, energy vulnerability, young adults, independent household
member, lived experience, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
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