Study Suggests Possible Connection Between TBI and Homelessness

in Article, News
April 28th, 2014

Many homeless men have suffered a traumatic brain injury in their life, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital.

 After collecting data from over 100 men aged 27 to 81 from a shelter in downtown Toronto, researchers found that nearly half of the homeless men surveyed had suffered a traumatic brain injury. Of those who had suffered a traumatic brain injury, 87 percent experienced the injury prior to becoming homeless.

 A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the result of a sudden, violent blow or jolt to the head that disrupt the normal function of the brain. They are known to be linked to mental health issues, seizures, substance abuse, and overall poorer physical health.

Dr. Jane Topolovec-Vranic

 In the men surveyed under age 40, the most common cause of TBIs were falls from blackouts caused by drugs or alcohol. In the men over 40 years old, assault was the most common cause. Other causes included sports and recreation and motor vehicle collisions.

The study was led by Dr. Jane Topolovec-Vranic, a clinical researcher in St. Michael’s Hospital’s Neuroscience Research Program. Dr. Topolovec-Vranic’s findings suggests that a TBI before could be a risk factor for becoming homeless, which makes it even more important to monitor young people who suffer TBIs for health and behavioral changes.

These findings could also challenge the common assumption that homelessness is a conscious choice or a result of addiction or mental illness. However, the small size of the study limits the conclusions that can be drawn about the possible connection between TBI and homelessness, and additional research is needed to better understand it.

-Margaret Lehar

Sources:

Traumatic brain injury among men in an urban homeless shelter: observational study of rates and mechanisms of injury-CMAJ Open

Our Stories-Newsroom – Who We Are – St. Michael’s-St. Michael’s Hospital

CDC – Traumatic Brain Injury – Injury Center-CDC

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