Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Addressing homelessness should be a focus of public health initiatives in high income countries to help prevent violence, according to a new paper published in The Lancet Public Health.

A homeless person in a red coat sitting on the pavement with their head down © Shutterstock

Researchers, led by Professor Senior Fazel at the University of Oxford alongside colleagues in Copenhagen and Aarhus in Denmark, looked at links between homelessness, psychiatric disorders and violent offending.

The study of more than 1.7 million Denmark residents showed that within 10 years of their first contact with a homeless shelter, 22.9% of men and 7.7% of women has committed at least one violent crime leading to conviction – which was significantly higher than those who were not homeless.

Homeless people with co-occurring psychiatric conditions, especially drug misuse, were at an even greater risk of committing violent crimes.

Homeless people often have high rates of trauma and adverse life experiences, particularly in childhood, and substance misuse which can also be associated with higher rates of violence.

Professor Fazel said:

Our results suggest that public health and policy should consider preventing and reducing rates of homelessness as part of violence prevention initiatives, as well as early treatment of mental illness and substance misuse in people experiencing homelessness.

Given homelessness is associated with poor health and social outcomes, public health and policy should consider how to reduce the risk of adverse outcomes in people experiencing homelessness.

There is also a need to understand and address traumatic experiences better in people experiencing homelessness, which might also prevent at-risk individuals from experiencing homelessness in the first place.”

The authors suggest investing in services that support people at risk of becoming homeless, particularly for people discharged from psychiatric hospitals or released from prison, could be one way of preventing homelessness. They also argue that homelessness shelters could be potentially important settings for offering support such as healthcare, and treatment for substance misuse and mental health conditions.

Professor Fazel added: “Key drivers of the association between experiencing homelessness and violent offending include mental illness, particularly with co-occurring substance use disorders. Thus, services targeted at people experiencing homelessness need to address these overlapping needs.”



Please follow the link below to read the news on the NIHR BRC website.