The unmet health care needs of homeless adults: a national study

Am J Public Health. 2010 Jul;100(7):1326-33. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.180109. Epub 2010 May 13.


Objectives: We assessed the prevalence and predictors of past-year unmet needs for 5 types of health care services in a national sample of homeless adults.

Methods: We analyzed data from 966 adult respondents to the 2003 Health Care for the Homeless User Survey, a sample representing more than 436,000 individuals nationally. Using multivariable logistic regression, we determined the independent predictors of each type of unmet need.

Results: Seventy-three percent of the respondents reported at least one unmet health need, including an inability to obtain needed medical or surgical care (32%), prescription medications (36%), mental health care (21%), eyeglasses (41%), and dental care (41%). In multivariable analyses, significant predictors of unmet needs included food insufficiency, out-of-home placement as a minor, vision impairment, and lack of health insurance. Individuals who had been employed in the past year were more likely than those who had not to be uninsured and to have unmet needs for medical care and prescription medications.

Conclusions: This national sample of homeless adults reported substantial unmet needs for multiple types of health care. Expansion of health insurance may improve health care access for homeless adults, but addressing the unique challenges inherent to homelessness will also be required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult