Homeless people have a disproportionately higher risk for traumatic brain injury (TBI) compared to the general population, according to a new study.
While recent research has identified high rates of TBI among homeless people, there has been no detailed review of the existing data, according to Topolovec-Vranic.
That led to a review of all the recent scientific studies on homelessness and TBI by the researcher and her colleagues in the Head Injury Clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital. According to the researcher, their goal was to identify gaps in knowledge and suggest areas of future research.
The studies Topolovec-Vranic and her team reviewed found that between 8 and 53 percent of homeless people — mostly men — have TBI.
The majority suffered a TBI before becoming homeless, which suggests that TBI might be a risk factor for homelessness, Topolovec-Vranic noted. It’s also possible that impulse control disorders could predispose individuals to both TBI and homelessness, she said.
Traumatic brain injuries are caused by a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Injuries range from mild, characterized by a brief change in mental status, to severe, which could include unconsciousness or amnesia.
TBI also is associated with low employment rates after the injury, which can contribute to a downward spiral into homelessness, according to the researchers.
“A better understanding of TBI, its presentation and characteristics in the homeless is vital in order to enable appropriate interventions, treatments, and case management in the improvement of outcomes for this important segment of the population,” said Dr. Jane Topolovec-Vranic, a clinical researcher in the Trauma and Neurosurgery Program at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. ”
Reducing the prevalence of homelessness and the incidence of injury and illness among people who are homeless would have significant financial, societal and individual implications.”
“It is also suggested that in the homeless population, cognitive impairment may increase the risk of remaining homeless, illustrating the potential for TBIs to contribute to the chronicity of homelessness,” Topolovec-Vranic said.
The findings were published in the journal BMC Public Health.
Source: St. Michael’s Hospital