Mortality rates are higher in the homeless population, Danish researchers reveal. Homeless people have higher death rates and a much lower life expectancy than other people. In terms of a public health prospective, the homeless constitute a high-risk population.
The results of the nationwide study of homeless people carried out in Denmark were published in the Lancet, a leading medical journal. 32 711 homeless people were included in the study. Researchers confirmed high rates of psychiatric disorders among the homeless population. 62 per cent of homeless men and 58 per cent of homeless women had psychiatric disorders.
AdvertisementLife was found to be shorter for the homeless! The life expectancy for homeless people aged 15 to 24 was 22 years less for men and 17 years less for women when compared to the general population. This disparity in life expectancy is much higher than what was found out by previous studies.
Substance abuse was the most frequent diagnosis among men and women. This was associated with the highest risk of death. It produced a 70 per cent increased risk of death for homeless women and a 40 per cent increased risk of death for homeless men. Surprisingly, this value is much higher than the damage caused by factors such as violence and suicide.
Now these statistics belong to Denmark, a developed country ranked as having the world's highest level of income equality. Imagine the results that a similar study in India would produce. Despite being hailed as an engine of growth and instrument of globalization, our country is home to lakhs of homeless! The 2001 census had registered a total urban homeless population of 7, 78,599 people.
The current study is not devoid of flaws. Homeless people are a transient population and, because of their insufficient accommodation, are difficult to sample and monitor, the authors agree. The term 'homeless' used in the study covered people 'who either are living in or have a history of staying in a homeless shelter during the study period.' So this definitely means that people who were 'transiently homeless' should have made into the study. The study did not include homeless people who avoided shelters.
"This study underlines that this marginalized population needs more attention on the health agenda," the study authors concluded.
1. Psychiatric disorders and mortality among people in homeless shelters in Denmark: a nationwide register-based cohort study; Sandra Feodor et al; The Lancet
2. INDIA: URBAN POVERTY REPORT 2009