Homelessness and health research

In 2010, Homeless Link first published national data looking at the health of homeless people in England. Our latest research looks at how health and the support available have changed since then. 

Latest findings

Based on 2,590 responses from people using services in 19 areas across England, the unhealthy state of homelessness highlights the extent to which homeless people experience some of the worst health problems in society.

Widespread ill health

  • 73% of homeless people reported physical health problems. 41% said this was a long term problem. 
  • 80% of respondents reported some form of mental health issue, 45% had been diagnosed with a mental health issue.
  • 39% said they take drugs or are recovering from a drug problem, while 27% have or are recovering from an alcohol problem.
  • 35% had been to A&E  and  26% had been admitted to hospital over the past six months.  

Worse than the general public

  • 41% of homeless people reported a long-term physical health problem (compared to just 28% of the general population).
  • 45% had been diagnosed with a mental health problem (25%).
  • 36% had taken drugs in the past six months (5%).

Unhealthy lifestyles

  • 35% do not eat at least two meals a day.
  • Two-thirds consume more than the recommended amount of alcohol each time they drink.
  • 77% smoke.

Not enough help

  • 15% of respondents with physical health needs reported not receiving help.
  • 17.5% of those with mental health issues and 16.7% with alcohol issues would like support but are not receiving it.
  • 7% have been denied access to a dentist or GP. 

Signs of progress

There is evidence of improvements in a number of areas since our 2010 report. According to the latest data 36% of homeless people admitted to hospital report being discharged onto the streets with nowhere to go.  In 2010, this issue was reported by 73% of respondents admitted to hospital. 

Following Homelss Link and St Mungo's research in 2012, the Department of Health announced £10m of funding for 52 projects to improve hospital discharge procedure for homeless people.

Our evaluation of this project shows that results can be greatly improved when housing and health are jointly commissioned. In projects containing NHS and housing staff, 93% of patients were discharged to suitable accommodation.   

Where next?

The homeless hospital discharge evaluation reiterates our call for homelessness to be considered a health issue, and for the housing and health sectors to work more closely. However, this is only possible with investment and commissioning of the right services.  

The unhealthy state of homelessness: Health audit results 2014

The unhealthy state of homelessness report explores the health and wellbeing of homeless people in England and the support that is available to them. 


Evaluation of the Homeless Hospital Discharge Fund

Homeless Link's evaluation of the £10m Department of Health Homeless Hospital Discharge Fund. 


Preventing homelessness to improve health and wellbeing

Evidence review into interventions that are effective in responding to health and wellbeing needs in households at risk of homelessness. Rapid review commissioned by Public Health England.


Rapid review summary

A summary of the effective responses to health and wellbeing needs in households at risk of homelessness. 


'Needs to know' Research 2013

Produced by St Mungo’s Broadway and Homeless Link this 2014 audit of Health and Wellbeing Boards looks at whether the health needs of homeless people are being included in the planning and commissioning of healthcare services.


Guidance on including single homeless people in your JSNA 2014

This briefing aims to help Health and Wellbeing Boards understand the case for including the needs of single homeless people in local health assessments and how to best do this.


What is your area doing to improve the health of your clients?

Our Health Needs Audit Toolkit helps you assess local health trends and turn that assessment into practical action.