Improving life expectancy for people experiencing homelessness
28 January 2020
A third of deaths among homeless people are caused by treatable conditions such as tuberculosis and gastric ulcers, which can improve with the right care, a UCL study has found.
An estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018, the biggest increase in deaths since reporting began. Using health data, our researchers have discovered that at least one a third of homeless people die from readily treatable conditions, meaning hundreds of deaths could potentially have been prevented.
A study led by Dr Rob Aldridge analysed in-depth medical records for nearly 4000 people experiencing homelessness when they were admitted to English hospitals between 2013 and 2016. The study found that 600 of these people subsequently died.
Contrary to popular perception, the research shows that large numbers die from illnesses rather than hypothermia or drug and alcohol overdoses. This research points to the need for policy makers to have a much broader focus, encompassing physical health and long-term condition management, especially for more common conditions such as cardiovascular disease.
Our researchers worked with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which, as part of its "Dying Homeless" project, has sought to catalogue deaths on UK streets.
Dr Rob Aldridge (UCL Institute of Health Informatics), lead author of the study, said:
““Our research highlights a failure of the health system to care for this vulnerable group in a timely and appropriate manner.
“We need to identify homeless individuals at risk earlier and develop models of care that enable them to engage with interventions proven to either prevent or improve outcomes for early onset chronic disease.
“While homelessness is often addressed in England by means of short-term housing related support with a focus on recovery from mental illness and substance misuse, our research points to the need for a much broader focus that is encompassing of physical health and long-term condition management, especially for more common conditions such as cardiovascular disease.”
Medical records for the homeless people in the study were taken from specialist homeless hospital discharge schemes. The schemes focus on street homelessness and homeless people living in hostels, but also work with those who fulfil broader definitions of homelessness such as those who are sofa surfing.
UCL researchers are developing and evaluating new approaches to improving homeless healthcare.
- In the media
- The paper
- Report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism
- Dr Rob Aldridge’s academic profile
- UCL Institute of Health Informatics
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