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Home > Homelessness: an unhealthy state. Health status, risk behaviours and service utilisation among homeless people in two Irish cities.

O'Reilly, Fiona and Barror, Suzanne and Hannigan, Ailish and Scriver, Stacey and Ruane, Lynn and McFarlane, Anne and O'Carroll, Austin (2015) Homelessness: an unhealthy state. Health status, risk behaviours and service utilisation among homeless people in two Irish cities. Dublin: The Partnership for Health Equality.

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Key findings from the research include:

Health

  • Almost all respondents had either a diagnosed mental or physical health problem and the majority were also receiving treatment for ill health
  • Mental health issues were very common, with over half reporting a diagnosis of depression. Almost half of the sample had both a mental health problem and an addiction problem
  • More than one third of respondents had self-harmed; three fifths have had suicidal thoughts and more than one third had attempted suicide. Half of those reporting a mental health diagnosis had attempted suicide
  • Compared with the 1997 and 2005 studies, the homeless population has more diagnosed ill health, more are treated with prescribed medication, and more report mental health diagnoses and treatment
  • Overall, there is a higher level of health service utilisation than previous surveys, with most having seen a primary care GP or nurse in the previous six months
  • Half reported having attended specialised (hostel based) health services for homeless people

Health Services

  • Medical card coverage has greatly improved
  • The level of primary care and Emergency Department use has increased
  • Having a key worker meant that there was an increased likelihood of health care access

Addiction

  • Tobacco smoking has become almost universal among this group.
  • Illicit drug use has steadily risen since 1997
  • Rates of dangerous drinking have also increased, particularly among women.
  • The majority of homeless people still attend clinics for Methadone Maintenance Treatment rather than either mainstream primary care services or specialised health services for homeless people

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