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Homeless people die 30 years before national average

Homeless people die thirty years before the national average, says shocking new research from Sheffield University commissioned by Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people.

"Homelessness: A silent killer", a Crisis Policy Briefing based on interim research findings by the University of Sheffield for Crisis, finds that homeless people are dying at 47 years old and women at 43 years old, in stark contrast to the average age of death for the general population which is 77 years.

Other key findings from the research into the mortality of homeless people are:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse account for just over a third of all deaths
  • Homeless people are over nine times more likely to commit suicide than the general population
  • Deaths as a result of traffic accidents are three times as likely, infections twice as likely and falls over three times as likely

Despite improvements in the NHS and the health of the general population over the last 15 years, the average age of death for homeless people still remains shockingly low.

As might be expected, the causes of death for homeless people differ from those of the wider population. Whilst disease causes the vast majority of deaths amongst the general population, homeless people, as they die earlier, are more likely to die from external causes. There are much higher incidences of suicide and deaths as a result of traffic accidents, infections and falls are also more common.

The study paints a bleak picture of the consequences of homelessness and the extremely detrimental impact it can have on people's health and wellbeing.

Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: "It is shocking, but not surprising, that homeless people are dying much younger than the general population. Life on the streets is harsh and the stress of being homeless is clearly taking its toll."   She went on to say:

"This report paints a bleak picture of the consequences homelessness has on people's health and wellbeing. Ultimately, it shows that homelessness is killing people.

"Homeless people are amongst the most vulnerable in our society and it is clear that despite significant investment in the NHS they are not getting the help they need to address their health issues. Government must do more to improve the health of single homeless people and ensure they can access mainstream and specialist services.

"But this alone is not enough.  We need to prevent single people becoming homeless in the first place. It is a shocking fact that in the 21st century there is still no right to shelter and that a single homeless person can approach their council for help and be turned away to sleep on the streets. With homelessness rising, government must act now and change the law to ensure that help is available to all homeless people who need it when they need it."

The research by Dr Bethan Thomas, from the University of Sheffield, estimates the average age of death not just for rough sleepers (as previous studies have) but for the wider homeless population, including those who reside in night shelters, homeless hostels and use day centres.

Read Homelessness: A silent killer

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