Head injuries and homelessness

2008-11-22

in Politics, Science

A study recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal examined the correlation between traumatic head injuries and homelessness. 601 men and 303 women were surveyed, among whom 53% had experienced such injuries: 70% of those prior to their becoming homeless. Their overall rate for such injuries is five times higher than that of the population as a whole.

While the study does not seek to establish a causal link, the data is certainly suggestive. While it might be relatively rare for a head injury to be the exclusive cause of becoming homeless, it is certainly plausible that those who already lacked a social safety net could find themselves homeless as the eventual consequence of one.

It’s just another acute demonstration of how acutely unfair life really is. Providing long-term aid to those who require it is an onerous burden, and one that is perhaps borne poorly by impersonal governmental structures. That being said, the study does provide support for the ethical claim that society as a whole owes moral duties to the homeless, who may be in their present circumstance far more as the consequence of ill-fortune than as a consequence of any choices that we might feel make them undeserving of substantial assistance.

I learned about the study from The McGill Daily – a campus newspaper I picked up when I was visiting my brother in Montreal. Their story is available here.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah November 22, 2008 at 11:26 am

This is pretty interesting & serves both to confirm the known link between living in abusive households & homelessness, and to correlate nastier head injuries with seizures amongst the participants. I’d be interested to see what was causing these brain injuries, too – probably not car crashes & horse riding.

zoom November 23, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Interesting. I think it’s likely one’s risk of homelessness increases with the number of serious problems they have to contend with: eg, disability, addiction, mental illness, poverty, abuse, etc. Head injuries could both lead to some of these other problems as well as negatively affect one’s ability to cope with the other problems.

. November 24, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Poor more likely to end up in hospital, study finds

OTTAWA — A new study says low-income Canadians are more likely to be hospitalized for a variety of health problems, including mental illness, child asthma and diabetes.

The report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information also suggests that many of the diseases that put the poor in hospital could just as easily be treated in the community.

For example, people from lower-income groups were 2.4 times more likely to be hospitalized for diabetes, and children from such groups had 56 per cent higher hospitalization rates for asthma.

. November 24, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Poorest Canadians more likely to enter hospital: report
Last Updated: Monday, November 24, 2008 | 1:30 PM ET
CBC News

Poorer Canadians are more likely to enter hospital for health problems such as child asthma, mental illness and diabetes, including potentially preventable conditions, according to a report released Monday.

The study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, called Reducing Gaps in Health: A Focus on Socio-Economic Status in Urban Canada, compared hospitalization rates for various illnesses in the country’s 15 largest urban areas, representing two-thirds of the urban population.

Urban Canadians in the lowest socio-economic groups, based on income, education and employment, were more likely to be hospitalized for chronic conditions that could be treated in the community, the study’s authors found for the three-year period between 2003 and 2006.

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