Plenty of previous studies have associated high risks of brain injury with the homeless community, but few have found results as devastating as the findings published yesterday in the journal CMAJ Open. The report found that almost half of homeless men have suffered at least one traumatic brain injury in their life, and 87 percent of those brain injuries occurred before the men had become homeless.
Assaults accounted for over half of the brain injuries (60 percent), but many were caused by the most common causes of TBIs – falls and vehicle collisions (42 percent). The researchers fear these rates may suggest traumatic brain injuries could be a risk factor for becoming homeless, according to led researcher Dr. Jane Topolovec-Vranic, a clinical researcher in the St. Michael’s Hospital Neuroscience Research Program.
Dr. Topolovec-Vranic used the findings to emphasize the importance of health care providers and others who work with homeless people to evaluate brain injury history due to the links between TBIs and mental health issues, substance abuse, and overall poor physical health. She also urged for monitoring young people who suffer TBIs for health and behavioral changes that may put them at risk.
Dr. Topolovec-Vranic and colleagues looked at data on 111 homeless men aged 27 to 81 years old who were recruited from a downtown Toronto homeless shelter. According to the findings, 45 percent of these men had suffered a traumatic brain injury, 70 percent of which occurred during childhood or teenage years.
In men under 40, the most common cause was found to be falls from drug or alcohol blackouts, while assault was the most common for men over 40.