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Death Among the Homeless

A new study shows death risks among homeless people are dramatically different than those in the general population.
Researchers in Denmark followed more than 750 homeless people for 10 years. Participants were divided into two groups: a registration group and an interview group. Researchers studied the information provided in annual reports for the registration group. Those in the interview group were asked questions about their upbringing, family history, education, and mental health.//

Researchers found certain members of the homeless community face much different mortality risks than those in the same demographic of the general population. For example, researchers found young homeless people, between ages 15 and 34, were more likely to die than older homeless people. In the general population, the opposite is true. Also, women have a lower risk of death in the general population, but have a higher risk when part of the homeless community.

The study shows the highest mortality was among homeless people staying only a short time in a hostel. These individuals are four times more likely to die young than people in the general population.

Other predictors of early death include bad childhood experiences and the use of alcohol or drugs. Most of the homeless people studied had severe psychiatric problems. Ten percent of them had been institutionalized as children. Others suffered dramatic experiences, such as the death of a parent. Fourteen percent of the participants had a father die before turning 17, and 11 percent had a mother die before turning 17.

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