Mental health issues are significantly more prevalent among homeless young people than their non-homeless counterparts, new research has found.
'Making It Matter: Improving the Health of Young Homeless People', by pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca and youth homelessness charity Depaul UK, found that 40% of young homeless people are likely to experience depression compared to 21% of non-homeless young people.
In addition, 27% of homeless young people have been diagnosed with a mental health condition by a doctor compared with 7% of their non-homeless counterparts.
For the report, more than 380 homeless and non-homeless young people were reviewed. The research showed that young homeless people experience significantly poorer health than their peers, are more likely to use emergency health services and face considerable barriers in accessing the care they need. Indeed, 35% of respondents said that they wanted more mental health support.
The report made several recommendations, including that services for young homeless people should be easily accessible in places such as drop-in centres; and mental health services should not exclude people who take drugs or alcohol and vice versa; and consideration needs to be given to bridging the gap between child and adult services.
Paul Marriott, chief executive of Depaul UK, noted that homelessness and health are intertwined. "Health is often a low priority for young people whose focus is on getting a roof over their heads and some stability in their lives," he said. "This important and timely research, based on the perceptions and experience of young homeless people, provides us with knowledge of where changes are needed. It also gives us, and other practitioners and agencies working in the field of health and youth homelessness, opportunities to consider how we can best meet the needs of this client group.
"Given the changes to the structure of the health system, we also need to make sure that those of us working with young homeless people, and the young people themselves, have a way of ensuring that our voices are heard and views included at a local level."
Care services minister, Paul Burstow MP, welcomed the research, saying that it will strengthen the evidence base on health outcomes.
"The Department of Health is committed to addressing the health needs of those most vulnerable to poor health outcomes," he said. "The difference in health outcomes between the young homeless and the rest of the population is unacceptable and we must do something about it."