The study, led by Jane Topolovec-Vranic, Ph.D., a clinical researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, found that 87 percent of those injuries occurred before the men lost their homes.
Assaults were the major cause of most of the men’s traumatic brain injuries (TBI), accounting for 60 percent. Other causes were sports and recreation (44 percent) and motor vehicle collisions and falls (42 percent).
The fact that so many homeless men suffered a TBI before losing their home suggests these injuries could be a risk factor for becoming homeless, according to Topolovec-Vranic.
“That’s why it is important to monitor young people who suffer TBIs, such as concussions, for health and behavioral changes,” she said.
“It’s also important that those who work with the homeless be aware of any history of TBI because of the links between these injuries and mental health issues, substance abuse, seizures, and even poorer physical health,” she added.
For her study, Topolovec-Vranic looked at data on 111 homeless men between the ages of 27 and 81 who were recruited from a downtown Toronto men’s shelter.
She found that 45 percent of the men had experienced a traumatic brain injury. Of these, 70 percent were injured during their childhood or teenage years, while 87 percent experienced the injury before becoming homeless.
“In men under the age of 40, falls from drug or alcohol blackouts were the most common cause of traumatic brain injury. Assault was the most common in men over 40 years old,” she noted.
“Recognizing the link between a TBI sustained in childhood or the early teenage years and homelessness may challenge some assumptions that homelessness is a conscious choice made by these individuals — or just the result of their addictions or mental illness,” noted Topolovec-Vranic.
The study was published in the journal CMAJ Open.
Source: St. Michael’s Hospital