Chronic Physical Health Conditions among Homeless


Morbidity and mortality among homeless individuals is higher than the general population. This study aims to determine the prevalence of current sel f-reported, chronic physical health conditions in a large sample of homeless people with sub-sa mples from shelters and street in British Columbia, Canada.


Cross-sectional survey applying modified version of the ‘National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (NSHAPC)’ questionnaire in mul tiple sites in Vancouver, Victoria and Prince George, British Columbia, Canada.


Five hundred homeless individuals were surveyed between May and September of 2009. A person was defined as homeless if he/she had a self-identified living status of being without permanent housing prior to study entry for a minimum duration of one month. The main outcome measures were prevalence rates of self-reported chronic phy sical health conditions. A chronic physical health condition was defined as a condition, expected to last or had already lasted 6 months or more, which had been diagnosed by a health professional.


The most commonly self-reported, chronic, physical health condition in this group of homeless participants was history of head injury with subsequent loss of consciousness, dizziness, confusion, or disorientation (63.6%) followed by back problems (38.8%), chronic hepatitis (34.6%), migraine headaches (29.2%), and arthritis (28.4%). Chronic obstructive lung disease was reported by 15.8% of the participants, and high blood pressure by 15.6%. 7.6% indicated they were HIV-positive and/or had AIDS.


Homeless people have a high prevalence of chronic physical health condition, in the following areas: neurological, musculoskeletal, infectious and respiratory diseases. Precarious living conditions and housing, poor nutrition, psychosocial stress, smoking, and substance use are among common detrimental r isk factors for many of these conditions.

Publication Date: 
81 - 97
Journal Name: 
Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice
British Columbia, Canada