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Homeless people have disproportionately high rate of head injury, research finds

Last Updated Dec 3, 2019 at 12:13 pm PDT

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Summary

A UBC-led study suggests half of all people who are homeless have experienced a head injury in their lifetime

The study is actually an analysis of dozens of studies over almost 25 years dating back to 1995

Study did not determine was whether traumatic brain injury increased the risk of homelessness or the opposite

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – New numbers suggest half of all homeless people have experienced a head injury in their lifetime.

A UBC-led study has found people who are homeless have a disproportionately high prevalence of brain trauma; one-in-two overall, with one-in-four sustaining a head injury that is moderate or severe.

The research was published in The Lancet Public Health and is actually an analysis of dozens of studies over almost 25 years dating back to 1995.

The studies were published from six high-income countries — Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the U.K., and the U.S. — and included people of all ages.

What the study did not determine was whether traumatic brain injury (TBI) increased the risk of homelessness or whether homelessness increased the risk of traumatic brain injury.

Researchers say more work is needed to better understand the relationship, but the findings suggest that providing stable housing might lower the risk.

“…TBI is an under-appreciated and significant factor in the health and functioning of this vulnerable group of people,” the study’s senior author Dr. William Panenka, assistant professor in the UBC faculty of medicine, a member of the BC Provincial Neuropsychiatry Program at UBC and a part of the BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services Research Institute, said.

TBI can range from a mild concussion to a severe head injury, researchers explain.

Most people recover from mild brain injury, but repeated or severe trauma can result in long-lasting problems with movement, learning, or speaking.

“Their findings suggest that TBI is consistently associated with poorer self-reported physical and mental health, suicidality and suicide risk, memory concerns, increased health service use and criminal justice system involvement,” a release about the study reads.