A 10-year retrospective analysis of hospital admissions and length of stay among a cohort of homeless adults in Vancouver, Canada

Homelessness is associated with a very high prevalence of substance use and mental disorders and elevated levels of acute health service use. Among the homeless, little is known regarding the relative impact of specific mental disorders on healthcare utilization. The aim of the present study was to examine the association between different categories of diagnosed mental disorders with hospital admission and length of stay (LOS) in a cohort of homeless adults in Vancouver, Canada.

Participants were recruited as part of an experimental trial in which participants met criteria for both homelessness and mental illness. Administrative data were obtained (with separate consent) including comprehensive records of acute hospitalizations during the 10 years prior to recruitment and while participants where experiencing homelessness. Generalized Estimating Equations were used to estimate the associations between outcome variables (acute hospital admissions and LOS) and predictor variables (specific disorders).

The results demonstrate that specific mental disorders alongside high non-psychiatric service use were significantly associated with hospital admission and LOS. These findings suggest the importance of screening within the homeless population to identify individuals who may be at risk for acute illness and the implementation of services to promote recovery and prevent repeated hospitalization.

Publication Date: 
Journal Name: 
BMC Health Services Research (2016)
Vancouver, Canada