Intended for healthcare professionals


Homelessness and public health

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 29 January 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k214
  1. Mark Fransham, researcher,
  2. Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder professor of geography
  1. School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to: M Fransham mark.fransham{at}

Homelessness is soaring, with serious health implications for those affected

The number of people officially recorded as sleeping on the streets of England rose from 1768 in 2010 to 4751 in autumn 2017.1 Charities estimate the true figure to be more than double this.2 There has also been an increase in homeless families housed by local authorities in temporary accommodation, rising from 50 000 in 2010 to 78 000 in 2017.2 And in London alone there are an estimated 225 000 “hidden homeless” people aged 16-25—arranging their own temporary accommodation with friends or family.3 This rise in homelessness is not confined to the England but has affected most European countries.4

Health harms

Homelessness harms health. The most common precursor, falling into arrears with housing payments, has a negative association with self reported health comparable with that of unemployment.5 People living in damp, cold, or overcrowded housing experience greater physical risks to health, and strains on mental health occur though insecurity and personal debt.5 Associated health effects include respiratory conditions, depression, anxiety, unintentional injury, excess …

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