Health Risk Factors and Desire to Change among Homeless Adults

Am J Health Behav. 2016 Jul;40(4):455-60. doi: 10.5993/AJHB.40.4.7.


Objectives: The prevalence of smoking, at-risk alcohol use, overweight/obesity, inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption, and inadequate physical activity was examined among homeless adults. Desire to change these modifiable health risk factors and the association between desire to change and self-rated health also were examined.

Methods: A sample of 394 homeless adults completed computer-based questionnaires (read over headphones) that assessed sociodemographic characteristics, health risk factors, desire to address health risk factors, and self-rated health.

Results: Participants were primarily men (71.8%) and African Americans (62.8%). Most participants were current smokers (75.9%), 31.0% were at-risk drinkers, 58.8% were over-weight or obese, 66.2% consumed fewer than 5 fruits and vegetables per day, and 29.9% had insufficient physical activity. With the exception of at-risk drinking, more than half of those with each health risk factor reported a desire to address that factor. Poorer self-rated health was associated with desire to reduce drinking (p = .023) and increase fruit and vegetable consumption (p = .027); it was marginally related to desire to lose weight (p = .057).

Conclusions: Although the prevalence of modifiable health risk factors in homeless adults is high, the desire to change many risk factors is also high, indicating the need for relevant interventions for homeless adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Homeless Persons / psychology*
  • Homeless Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires