Abstract Previous research has shown that the economic crisis has a very serious impact to the indoor environmental quality of the low income households. Indoor temperature as well as energy, environmental, social and health related data are collected during the winter 2012–2013 from 50 low and very low income dwellings in the major Athens area in Greece in order to assess the influence of the serious economic situation in the country on the energy and environmental quality of poor families. Results show that indoor temperatures are much below the accepted standards and in many cases place in risk the health and even the life of the residents. The energy consumption for heating is found to be minimum and much below the country's threshold while a high fraction of households is not using heating energy at all. Strong correlations are found between the minimum indoor temperatures and the level of thermal losses of the dwellings. In addition, a strong association of the income level to various environmental and energy parameters is found. Finally, a high fraction of the very low income population is diagnosed to suffer from mental problems and in particular depression.