People experiencing homelessness have a 16-fold higher rate of sudden death from heart attacks, as well as other causes, research found.
The study focused on San Francisco County, described as having one of America’s highest concentrations of homeless people.
Researchers tracked the autopsies of 868 people in the county who had sudden deaths. Of these, 151 were homeless. They were more likely to be male, with a higher prevalence of alcohol and substance use, and psychiatric conditions.
Researchers found that homeless people died most often from noncardiac causes (including drug overdoses, gastrointestinal disorders and infection) while housed individuals died more often from arrhythmic causes.
Some of these deaths may have been prevented with defibrillators and other public policy measures to improve health, the authors stated.
First author Leila Haghighat said: ‘While the high rate of substance use in the homeless population has long been recognised, our study demonstrates its association with early, sudden mortality and its true impact among the homeless.’
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