WEDNESDAY, April 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Brain injuries are common among homeless men and most of those injuries occur before they lose their homes, a small study found.
Canadian researchers looked at 111 homeless men, aged 27 to 81, in Toronto and found that 45 percent of them had suffered a traumatic brain injury at some point in their lives.
Seventy percent of those brain injuries occurred when the men were children or teens, and 87 percent occurred before the men became homeless, the investigators found.
Overall, assaults caused 60 percent of the brain injuries among the men in the study, followed by sports and recreation (44 percent), and traffic crashes and falls (42 percent), according to the study published April 25 in the journal CMAJ Open.
While assaults were the most common cause of brain injury among men older than 40, falls from drug/alcohol blackouts were the most common cause of brain injury in those under 40, the findings showed.
Although the study wasn't designed to prove that brain injuries lead to homelessness, the findings suggest that a brain injury could be a risk factor for becoming homeless, said study leader Jane Topolovec-Vranic, a clinical researcher in the neuroscience research program at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.
Recognizing that a brain injury could increase a person's chances of becoming homeless might challenge widely held beliefs that people make a choice to be homeless or become homeless solely as the result of mental illness or substance abuse, she explained in a hospital news release.
Topolovec-Vranic also noted that there is a connection between brain injury and mental health problems, substance abuse, seizures and general poorer physical health. Because of this link, health care providers and others who work with homeless people need to be aware of any history of brain injury.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about traumatic brain injury.
SOURCE: St. Michael's Hospital, news release, April 25, 2014