Homelessness is closely related to the deterioration of physical and mental health; homeless people experience high rates of health problems, such as HIV infection, alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness, tuberculosis and other conditions. In one study, more than 8 out of 10 (85%) homeless people reported having a chronic health condition. And it's not just people on the street who are affected: a long-term Canadian study conducted in several cities found that having vulnerable housing also contributes to poor health. Disorders that affect joints, ligaments, and tendons (such as arthritis) are common among the homeless.
A study on the treatment of chronic pain among the homeless found that treatment is a challenge due to the stress of living on the street or in shelters, the inability to afford prescription medications, and poor sleeping conditions. Some people refuse to see a doctor for pain because of how they have been treated in the past, and others use drugs or alcohol to cope with pain because their history of missing appointments or drug use prevents doctors from prescribing over-the-counter pain relievers. As a result, much of the chronic pain in this population is untreated. Depression rates are also higher among the homeless population, with 22 to 46 percent attempting suicide and up to 61 percent having had suicidal thoughts.
Much of the literature on the subject suggests that interventions that offer treatment for cases of substance use and mental illness and intervention approaches in critical times to mitigate the consequences of acute stress factors may be effective in reducing homelessness.