New Study Looks At Mental Health And Homelessness

A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry looked at the prevalence of mental health disorders among individuals experiencing homelessness.

“We were examining the prevalence of addictions and mental health (AMH) conditions among adults experiencing homelessness globally,” study author Rebecca Barry told us. Barry is postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. “We were hoping to find the overall current and lifetime prevalence of AMH conditions in this population.”

The research team thought that the prevalence of AMH would likely be higher among people experiencing homelessness than among the general population.  However, they did not know to what extent.

“As homelessness is increasing in Canada and in many other countries, it is increasingly important to understand the health impacts related to homelessness,” Barry told us. “We extracted the results from previously published studies and used meta-analyses to combine these results.”

The researchers found that the current prevalence of AMH among people experiencing homelessness is 67% and the lifetime prevalence is 77%, with the lifetime prevalence higher among males (86%) compared to females (69%). 

“I was surprised at how high the overall prevalence of AMH was, and surprised at how high the prevalence was for some individual diagnoses as well,” Barry told us. “I think this paper shows the extent of the problem, but more research on why people experiencing homelessness have a higher prevalence of AMH is needed.” 

Barry believes more studies examining mediators and moderators of this association and the direction of this association may help identify modifiable risk factors. 

“A social determinants of health perspective is needed to tackle this issue, which includes social, economic and political factors,” Barry told us. “There have been some successful interventions that have improved housing retention as discussed in our paper, and perhaps some of these interventions could be applied more broadly.” 

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