Healthy living

Homeless die 30 years earlier

Homeless die 30 years earlier Drugs and alcohol kill more than a third

Homeless people die thirty years before the average person in the UK, a study has found.

New research from Sheffield University found that men are dying at 47 years old and women at 43 years old. The average age of death for the general population is 77.

The research, which was carried out for the charity Crisis, also found that drug and alcohol abuse account for just over a third of all deaths among the homeless.

Homeless people are also more than nine times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, three times more likely to die as a result of traffic accidents and twice as likely to die from an infection, the study found.

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

Drug and alcohol abuse are known to be both a cause and consequence of homelessness, and four out of five people start using at least one new drug after becoming homeless, the charity said.

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.

"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.

"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, the 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."

This article was published on Wed 21 December 2011

Image © paul prescott -

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