Traumatic Brain Injury Possibly Linked to Homelessness

Many things are still the “final frontier” in medicine, and I’d argue our brains are certainly among them!

We’re still learning the different ways our brains work and what can happen when there are problems every day. One surprising new study, published in the The Lancet Public Health journal, has just found a possible link between a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and being homeless (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(19)30188-4/fulltext#seccestitle10).

The research team in this study looked at data from six high-income countries: the US, the UK, South Korea, Japan, Canada and Australia. They included people who were currently homeless and those who were in unstable housing situations, and they compared that information to existing and new cases of TBI to see if there was an association. What they found was that one out of every two people had experienced some sort of traumatic brain injury, and close to one in four homeless people had experienced a moderate or severe brain injury.

Researchers in this study also linked traumatic brain injuries to poor mental health, including memory issues, increased risk of suicide and more involvement with the local criminal justice system. Jacob Stubbs, a lead study author, theorized that a traumatic brain injury can be a crucial factor in the health challenges already faced by this vulnerable population. He also added that health care professionals and workers on the front line should be aware of the potential impact of TBI on this population and how it relates to their functioning and health.

The study results do suggest that traumatic brain injuries can be a cause of homelessness and also a consequence of it. The study authors noted that more research is still needed to completely understand the effects and consequences of traumatic brain injuries on homeless people.

Experiencing events of mild head trauma over time has been shown in various studies to raise a person’s risk of neurological dysfunction down the road, and this includes conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. A study published in the Journal of Neurology found that just one concussion can raise a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by an astounding 83 percent, depending on the severity of the concussion (https://n.neurology.org/content/90/20/e1771).

Your brain’s health can have a profound effect on many areas of your life, as more and more studies have indicated. While more research is clearly needed on the connection between homelessness and TBI, it’s certainly a social result many people were not expecting.