Lifetime, 5-year and past-year prevalence of homelessness in Europe: a cross-national survey in eight European nations
SourceBMJ Open, 9, 11, (2019), pp. e033237
Article / Letter to editor
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Primary and Community Care
SubjectRadboudumc 18: Healthcare improvement science RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences
OBJECTIVES: To examine the lifetime, 5-year and past-year prevalence of homelessness among European citizens in eight European nations. DESIGN: A nationally representative telephone survey using trained bilingual interviewers and computer-assisted telephone interview software. SETTING: The study was conducted in France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. PARTICIPANTS: European adult citizens, selected from opt-in panels from March to December 2017. Total desired sample size was 5600, with 700 per country. Expected response rates of approximately 30% led to initial sample sizes of 2500 per country. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: History of homelessness was assessed for lifetime, past 5 years and past year. Sociodemographic data were collected to assess correlates of homelessness prevalence using generalised linear models for clustered and weighted samples. RESULTS: Response rates ranged from 30.4% to 33.5% (n=5631). Homelessness prevalence was 4.96% for lifetime (95% CI 4.39% to 5.59%), 1.92% in the past 5 years (95% CI 1.57% to 2.33%) and 0.71% for the past year (95% CI 0.51% to 0.98%) and varied significantly between countries (pairwise comparison difference test, p<0.0001). Time spent homeless ranged between less than a week (21%) and more than a year (18%), with high contrasts between countries (p<0.0001). Male gender, age 45-54, lower secondary education, single status, unemployment and an urban environment were all independently strongly associated with lifetime homelessness (all OR >1.5). CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of homelessness among the surveyed nations is significantly higher than might be expected from point-in-time and homeless service use statistics. There was substantial variation in estimated prevalence across the eight nations. Coupled with the well-established health impacts of homelessness, medical professionals need to be aware of the increased health risks of those with experience of homelessness. These findings support policies aiming to improve health services for people exposed to homelessness.
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