Health of the homeless in Dublin: has anything changed in the context of Ireland's economic boom?

Eur J Public Health. 2008 Oct;18(5):448-53. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckn038. Epub 2008 Jun 25.


Background: In the context of the Irish economic boom we assessed the health, service utilisation and risk behaviour of homeless people in north Dublin city and compared findings with a 1997 study.

Methods: A census of homeless adults in north Dublin city was conducted in 2005 using an adapted interviewer-administered questionnaire from the 1997 study.

Results: A total of 363 (70%) of the target population participated. Compared to 1997 the population was younger (81% versus 70% under 45 years, P < 0.01) with a higher proportion of women (39% versus 29%, P < 0.05) and long-term homeless (66% versus 44%, P < 0.001). Drug misuse superseded alcohol as the main addiction with a doubling of the proportion reporting past or current drug use (64% versus 32%, P < 0.001). The prevalence of comparable physical chronic conditions was largely unchanged while depression (51% versus 35%, P < 0.01) and anxiety (42% versus 32%, P < 0.05) had increased. There were high rates of blood-borne infections, such as HIV (6%), hepatitis B (5%) and hepatitis C (36%) in 2005 and dental problems (53%) all of which can be associated with drug use. Access to free healthcare had not increased. Similar proportions reported not having medical cards (40% versus 45% NS). Homeless people continued to have higher usage of secondary care services than the general population.

Conclusions: This study shows a changing disease profile among the homeless population consistent with a growing drug using population. It confirms that the homeless population in Dublin in terms of health remain excluded from the benefits of an economic boom despite a government policy aimed at redressing social inclusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Censuses
  • Economics*
  • Female
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Homeless Persons*
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk-Taking
  • Young Adult