A recent study from the University of California-San Francisco has shed light on the alarming risks associated with homelessness. The research revealed that people who are homeless are 16 times more likely to suffer sudden fatalities from heart attacks and other causes compared to the general population.
Conducted in San Francisco County, a locale with a notably high homeless population, the study also found that the rate of sudden cardiac deaths in this group is seven times greater than in the general public.
The study’s results have caused a push for policy changes and increased availability of essential medical equipment like defibrillators in order to enhance the health and safety of individuals experiencing homelessness.
“Homeless individuals die young, at a mean age of 50 years. Our study sheds light on the contribution of sudden death to the homeless population,” said Dr. Zian H. Tseng, a corresponding and senior author of the study.
“We found both cardiac and non-cardiac causes, such as overdoses and unrecognized infections, are much higher among homeless individuals dying suddenly. These findings offer several novel insights into the profound impact of homelessness on sudden death and its underlying causes.”
The research team conducted an in-depth review of autopsy reports for 868 people who died suddenly in the country, 151 of whom were identified as homeless. Interestingly, those who were homeless were, on average, younger– 56 years old compared to 61 who were housed.
The homeless group also had a higher percentage of men and showed a greater likelihood of alcohol and substance abuse. Additionally, they exhibited a higher rate of mental health conditions, specifically bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
The study revealed that non-cardiac issues like drug overdoses, infections, and gastrointestinal problems were the most common causes of sudden death among the homeless. Conversely, housed individuals more often died from arrhythmic issues.
It’s also crucial to note that the time it took for paramedics to respond was comparable for both groups.