Most homeless people have suffered a traumatic brain injury, study finds
- 53% percent of homeless people have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), a rate 2.3 to four times that of the general population
- 25% suffered head trauma described as moderate to severe, which is a rate 10 times greater that of population as whole
- Homeless people with TBIs were at higher risk for thoughts of suicide, poor memory and involvement in the criminal justice system
- Researchers could not determine if TBIs increased the risk of homelessness or vice versa
The majority of homeless people have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a new study says.
Researchers found that one in two people without a roof over their heads – 53 percent – have experienced head trauma.
What’s more, 25 percent had suffered a moderate or severe injury, described as being unconscious for at least 30 minutes or have a lingering disability.
The team, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, is calling for more awareness of TBIs among homeless people and that healthcare workers should check for a history of TBIs when treating the homeless, which may improve their care.
A new study from the University of British Columbia has found that the prevalence of all TBIs among homeless people was between 2.5 and four higher than the general population. Pictured: A homeless man sits along a sidewalk in New York City, December 2017
There are currently more than 553,700 people in the US experiencing homelessness on any given night.
Those who sleep on their streets can suffer from huge declines in physical and mental health due to their homeless status, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states.
Brain injuries can range from mild concussions to severe blows to the head a
While the majority of people recover from a mild brain trauma, those who sustain serious injuries may have life-long problems affecting their ability to walk and talk.
It was previously found that these injuries were devastating to NFL players, who can develop CTE from repeated head blows, and now it appears the same is true for the homeless.
For the new study, published in The Lancet, the team looked at 38 studies from 1995 to 2018 from six countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the UK and the US.
Participants were either homeless, in unstable housing situations, or looking for services for homeless people.
They looked at the number of new and existing cases of TBIs and analyzed the link between head injuries and health outcomes.
Results showed that one in two homeless people had experienced a TBI and one in four had an injury described as moderate or severe.
That makes the prevalence of all TBIs among homeless people between 2.5 and four times greater than the general population.
When it comes to moderate or severe TBIs, the rate is about 10 times more than it is among most Americans.
‘Traumatic brain injury may be an important factor in the complex health challenges faced by this population,’ lead author Jacob Stubbs, a PhD student at UBC, said.
‘Our work emphasizes that health care professionals and frontline workers should be aware of the burden of TBI in this population, and how it relates to health and functioning.’
Additionally, homeless people with TBIs were at higher risk for poor physical and mental health, thoughts of suicide, poor memory and involvement in the criminal justice system.
The team says more public health research is needed on how to prevent TBIs among homeless people.
‘The relationship between homelessness and TBI could function both ways – TBI and homeless could increase the risk of homelessness, and homelessness could increase the risk of TBI,’ said Dr Jehannine Austin, a professor in the department of medical genetics at UBC.
‘We need a better understanding of this relationship to address the issue, and to improve outcomes in the homeless and marginally housed population.’
Although the authors couldn’t determine if TBIs increased the risk of homelessness or vice versa, they say stable housing could lower the risk for head injuries.