Mental Health

Many Homeless People Reportedly Suffer Brain Injuries

Homeless people are significantly more at risk of acquiring diseases, both physical and mental, with increased risk of overall mortality than the general population. The demographic includes six million people experiencing homelessness every year in the U.S. and Europe. These marginalized individuals are battling an unexplored pervasive public health concern, which pertains to traumatic brain injury (TBI). 

Previous research has shown that TBI is linked to the development of psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. A systematic review and meta-analysis of this phenomenon was conducted by researchers at British Columbia Mental Health and Substance Use Services Research Institute, which was published in the Lancet Public Health Journal on December 2.

What The Study Found

Between 1995 and 2018, 38 studies were included in the systematic review, which analyzed the link between TBI and subsequent health concerns developed as a result. The research showed that traumatic brain injuries were consistently linked with memory-related issues, suicidal behavior, using health services frequently and seeking the criminal justice system.

However, the scientists noted that more research is needed to study the rates of incidence, prevention of TBI and understanding its consequences on people with unstable housing. They also said that age-related cognitive disorders remain unresearched.

The next step in this project was a meta-analysis of 26 studies that included data on the history of TBIs and the prevalence in the participants’ lifetime. Moderate and severe cases were checked in addition. 

The results revealed that 53 percent of the participants had experienced a traumatic brain injury, which translated to one in two homeless people suffering brain injuries. About 25 percent experienced moderate to severe brain injuries, the equivalent of which is one in four people included in the study. 

On the whole, the prevalence of TBI compared to studies assessing the general population revealed that the homeless population were between 2.5 times and 4 times more likely to have experienced TBIs. 

Moreover, when it came to people with moderate or severe TBI, they were 10 times more likely to have suffered from TBI than the general population. “Additionally, given the high prevalence of moderate or severe TBI, and the considerable number of individuals with evidence of traumatically-induced lesions visible with MRI, the threshold for referral to neuroimaging specialists after head injury should be reduced in this population,” the researchers stated in the paper. 

“Our findings suggest that health-care providers who work with these individuals should be aware of the high prevalence of TBI and associated effects on health and functioning,” the researchers explained. 

“Further research is urgently needed to address limitations to our understanding of the burden of TBI in at-risk and multimorbid populations,” the researchers added. 

Traumatic Brain Injury A blow to the head that does not result in a concussion can still lead to cognitive impairment in learning and memory. Reuters