Homeless Mortality Rates 3 to 9 times Greater than Housed Persons

Posted January 7th, 2014 @ 7:59 AM by

Yesterday morning, I called the coroners office to confirm the death of a homeless person, for which I only had a first name. He experienced problems outside of Shelter 1, on his way to Shelter 2 or 3 for the evening. 911 was called, staff performed CPR and he died at the hospital. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of death.Porchlight staff and Lynn Green are saying it had nothing whatsoever to do with the cold weather. Hoewever, last night, the county made sure Porchlight had transportation to help people get to shelter 2 and 3. (For men – Shelter 1 is Grace Episcopal Church, Shelter 2 is St. Johns, Shelter 3 is First United Methodist Church. For women, there is just one shelter that accommodates 30 – the Salvation Army.) And, if you do a simple google search you will find lots of info about how cold weather is dangerous for people with various existing health problems, like heart problems.

It reminded me of various things I have read about homelessness and mortality rates over the years, that I thought I should share.


People who are homeless are at greater risk of infectious and chronic illness, poor mental health, and substance abuse, as well as being victims of violence, compared to the general population. In addition, the mortality rate for those experiencing chronic homelessness is four to nine times higher than for the general population. In one literature review, the life expectancy for people who are homeless was reported to be approximately 45 years.


Using data from the 1991-2001 Canadian census, they tracked 15,000 homeless and marginally housed people across Canada for 11 years.

Mortality rates among homeless and marginally housed people were substantially higher than rates in the poorest income groups, with the highest rates seen at younger ages.

Among those who were homeless and marginally housed, the probability of survival to age 75 was 32% in men and 60% in women. This compared to 51% and 72% among men and women in the lowest income group in the general population.

For men, this equates to about the same chance of surviving to age 75 as men in the general population of Canada in 1921 or men in Laos in 2006. For women, this equates to about the same chance of surviving to age 75 as women in the general population of Canada in 1956 or women in Guatemala in 2006.

Remaining life expectancy at age 25 among homeless and marginally housed men was 42 years — 10 years lower than the general population and six years lower than the poorest income group.

For homeless and marginally housed women, remaining life expectancy at age 25 was 52 years — seven years lower than the general population, and five years lower than the poorest income group.


Homelessness dramatically elevates one’s risk of illness, injury and death. For every age group, homeless persons are three times more likely to die than the general population. Middle-aged homeless men and young homeless women are at particularly increased risk.

The average age of death of homeless persons is about 50 years, the age at which Americans commonly died in 1900. Today, non-homeless Americans can expect to live to age 78.

Homeless people suffer the same illnesses experienced by people with homes, but at rates three to six times higher. This includes potentially lethal communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and influenza, as well as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.

Homeless persons die from illnesses that can be treated or prevented. Crowded, poorly-ventilated living conditions, found in many shelters, promote the spread of communicable diseases. Research shows that risk of death on the streets is only moderately affected by substance abuse or mental illness, which must also be
understood as health problems. Physical health conditions such as heart problems or cancer are more likely to lead to an early death for homeless persons. The difficulty getting rest, maintaining medications, eating well, staying clean and staying warm prolong and exacerbate illnesses, sometimes to the point where they are life threatening.

Homeless persons die on the streets from exposure to the cold. In the coldest areas, homeless persons with a history of frostbite, immersion foot, or hypothermia have an eightfold risk of dying when compared to matched nonhomeless controls.

Homeless persons die on the streets from unprovoked violence, also known as hate crimes. For the years 1999 through 2005, the National Coalition for the Homeless has documented 472 acts of violence against homeless people by housed people, including 169 murders of homeless people and 303 incidents of non-lethal violence in 165 cities from 42 states and Puerto Rico.

Poor access to quality health care reduces the possibility of recovery from illnesses and injuries. Nationally, 71% of Health Care for the Homeless clients are uninsured,6 as were 46.6 million other Americans in 2005.

Won’t let me cut and paste an excerpt.


Homelessness in America is a public health emergency. The mortality rate for street homelessness is on par with some forms of cancer, cutting a person’s lifespan by an average of 25 years.

Last year there were 10 deaths we identified . . . unfortunately, we are off to a bad start in 2014.

Categories: | Dane | Madison | Media

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