Health status of marginalised young people in unstable accommodation

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2017, 53 (10), pp. 995 - 999
Issue Date:
2017-10-01
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© 2017 Paediatrics and Child Health Division (The Royal Australasian College of Physicians) Aim: More than 26 000 Australians aged 12–24 years experience homelessness, yet data on the health status of homeless youth remain limited. The aim of this study was to describe the health of young people attending a youth health service in Western Sydney who were experiencing homelessness. Methods: Retrospective case note review for clients aged 12–25 years attending Youth Health Services in Western Sydney. Extracted data included: homelessness status; demographics; physical health issues; mental health issues; involvement with juvenile justice; and disengagement from education or employment. Results: Just under half of the 180 clients attending a Youth Health Service in Western Sydney were homeless, and an additional 15 young people who were not currently homeless nominated homelessness as a presenting issue. In comparison with currently domiciled young people, homeless youth were less likely to have a regular general practitioner and more likely to nominate a physical health concern as a presenting issue, although there was no difference between groups in terms of diagnosed mental or physical health conditions. Considered as a whole, the sample showed high rates of acute physical symptoms, physical trauma, psychological distress and self-harm. Conclusions: Youth homelessness is associated with risk of both poor physical and mental health. As much of youth homelessness is hidden, health-care providers need to ensure that they inquire about homelessness status, and have an awareness of potentially complex multi-morbidities in the physical and mental health of young marginalised people presenting to health services.
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