Nearly half of all homeless men who participated in a Toronto hospital study had sustained a traumatic brain injury in their lifetime.
St. Michael’s Hospital surveyed 111 homeless men recruited from a city shelter and found 45 percent had experienced a traumatic brain injury in the past, according to the study published April 25 in the journal CMAJ Open.
“You could see how it would happen,” said study author Jane Topolovec-Vranic, a clinical researcher of trauma and neurosurgery. “You have a concussion, and you can’t concentrate or focus. Their thinking abilities and personalities change. They can’t manage at work, and they may lose their job, and eventually lose their families. And then it’s a negative spiral.”
About 70 percent were injured during childhood or adolescence, and 87 percent were injured before becoming homeless.
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The fact that so many men suffered a traumatic brain injury before losing their home suggests it’s a risk factor for homelessness.
While the study had a small sample size Topolovec-Vranic says the results give important information to health care providers in addition to research linking brain injury to mental health issues, substance abuse, seizures and generally poorer physical health.
A separate Toronto study recently published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation found that homeless people or the “vulnerably housed” who have also sustained a traumatic brain injury is 61 percent – seven times higher than the general population.
Another recent study found that nearly half of newly admitted adolescents into the penal system in New York had a traumatic brain injury history.
Other studies found that veterans who suffered a brain injury were more likely to commit suicide than those who had not.