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Perceived health status among the new urban homeless

, : Perceived health status among the new urban homeless. Social Science & Medicine 24(8): 669-678

Homelessness may be the leading social problem in the United States in the mid 1980s. While there may be anywhere from 250,000 to three million homeless persons, few empirically based published studies are available concerning the correlates of mental and physical health status among the homeless. Los Angleles, where the present study was conducted, has been designated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to have one of the largest homeless populations (34,000-50,000) in the U.S. The current study is based on 269 in-depth interviews with homeless men and women in Los Angeles County, California. The homeless were found to be younger, better educated and disproportionately non-white compared to the profiles of the skidrow homeless of the past decades. Nearly half the men were veterans of military services, including 30% who were veterans of the Vietnam War. Respiratory infections and hypertension were the most prevalent health problems. The data suggest that a large segment of the homeless persons were depressed, 15.65 reported lifetime prevalence of hospitalization for emotional or nervous problems, and 12.6% reported hospitalization for substance abuse disorders. Multiple regression was utilized to test the validity of a perceived health status index as measured among the homeless and to identify the correlates of health. The health index reflect primarily an affliction by a chronic disease, the severity of an acute condition, the duration of depressed mood, and the alcoholism symptomatology. Length of unemployment, education, gender, and number of nights spent in a shelter were the best predictors of poor health in this population. Evidence from this study, as well as others, suggests that efforts should be made to avoid using the term homeless metaphorically. The causes of homelessness are multiple and complex and the resulting subgroups among the homeless population have different problems which require a variety of strategies to meet their needs.


PMID: 3603089

DOI: 10.1016/0277-9536(87)90310-8

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