A review of physical and mental health in homeless persons

Public Health Rev. 2001;29(1):13-33.


Objective: To review the physical and mental status in homeless people.

Data sources: A MEDLINE database search covering 5 decades was supplemented by tracing back through references from existing review work. Over 200 articles were extracted, and 106 were selected for review.

Main findings: Homeless persons suffer frequently from physical health problems like tuberculosis, asthma, bronchitis, HIV infection, and as a consequence, they run an increased risk for premature mortality. The prevalence of mental disorders among homeless individuals varies from 80-95% in the USA, Australia, Canada, Norway, and Germany to 25-33% in Ireland and Spain. The most prominent mental disorders among the homeless, which vary from country to country, are depression, affective disorders, substance abuse, psychotic disorders, schizophrenia, and personality disorders.

Conclusion: Homelessness is a major public health problem that should have our special interest.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Developed Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Homeless Persons / psychology
  • Homeless Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control
  • Prevalence
  • Preventive Health Services
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Problems