More than a fifth of over 65-year-olds “rationed” their energy usage this winter due to financial pressure, research from Compare the Market suggests.

Figures released by the price comparison website yesterday (7 March) reveal almost half (48 per cent) of that particular age group are worried that the cold weather over winter will lead to higher than usual energy bills.

In total 12 per cent said they do not feel they can afford an increase to their energy bills while 16 per cent said they worry about being able to pay their bills from their pension or income alone.

According to the research 30 per cent said they are either on a standard variable tariff (SVT) or are unsure what sort of energy tariff they have.

Furthermore the research suggests the energy price cap, which was introduced on 1 January this year to protect vulnerable customers, has “done little” to help vulnerable demographics.

More than half (54 per cent) of the OAPs surveyed said they have seen no change in their bills and only 3 per cent said their bills have decreased.

Last month industry regulator Ofgem announced a £117 increase to the SVT cap level, increasing the bills for millions on this type of tariff from 1 April.

When asked what they would do if their bills were to rise disproportionately, 38 per cent of respondents said they would have to dip into their savings or pay on their credit card, while 28 per cent believe they would need to cut down on expenditures including food in order to pay their energy bills.

Almost one in ten (8 per cent) said their health suffers because they limit the amount of heating they use while 7 per cent said they are considering downsizing their home in order to reduce energy costs.

Peter Earl, head of energy at Compare the Market, said: “The price cap was meant to reduce energy bills, yet we continue to see costs rise at alarming rates.

“In the past month alone, all of the big six have raised their prices to just below the new cap level coming in to force from 1 April.

“With so many elderly people on a standard variable rate tariff, they have the most to lose from these large cost increases.

“Nobody should be forced to sacrifice their health in order to heat their home, and especially not some of the most vulnerable members of our society, the elderly.

“Cold weather and the resulting financial and health problems are a real issue for older people, who have to worry about cold temperatures every year.

“It should be an absolute priority to ensure that they are able to afford their energy costs and appropriately heat their home.”

In response to the findings, a spokesperson for industry regulator Ofgem, said: “When the default tariff price cap was introduced on 1 January, suppliers were forced to scrap excess charges of £76 per year on average per default tariff customer and the cap stops this overcharging from returning.

“Ofgem analysis suggests that default tariff customers could be paying around £75 to £100 a year more on average for their energy had the default tariff cap not been introduced even after the increase in the level announced in February.

“Consumers on default deals who want to save even more money can shop around, including by asking their supplier if they are on the cheapest tariff and by using price comparison sites, to make savings on their energy bills.”

An Energy UK spokesperson said:“Energy suppliers are committed to helping customers in vulnerable circumstances and there are many voluntary schemes available for those who need them.

“If customers are struggling with bills, the most important thing is to get in touch with their energy supplier as soon as possible so they can provide help and support.

“Energy UK has also set up the independently-chaired Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances, which is looking at how standards of care and support could be improved in the energy sector and will report back in the coming weeks.

“The best way to keep bills down for customers in the long term run is by making sure their houses are energy efficient, for example by checking that they are well insulated – and again your supplier might be able to help with this.

“Using energy more efficiently has saved households £290 a year since 2008 according to the Committee of Climate Change – which is why we are continuing to call for the government to introduce a national energy efficiency programme.”