Predictors and consequences of homelessness in whole-population observational studies that used administrative data: a systematic review

Eileen Mitchell*, Tanisha Waring, Elayne Ahern, Diarmuid O’Donovan, Dermot O’Reilly, Declan T. Bradley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Downloads (Pure)


Homelessness is a complex societal and public health challenge. Limited information exists about the population-level health and social care-related predictors and consequences of persons with lived experience of homelessness (PEH). Studies that focus on population subgroups or ad hoc questionnaires to gather data are of relatively limited generalisability to whole-population health surveillance and planning. The aim of this study was to find and synthesise information about the risk factors for, and consequences of, experiencing homelessness in whole-population studies that used routine administrative data.

We performed a systematic search using EMBASE, MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) and PsycINFO research databases for English-language studies published from inception until February 2023 that reported analyses of administrative data about homelessness and health and social care-related predictors and consequences. We followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.

Of the 1224 articles reviewed, 30 publications met the inclusion criteria. The included studies examined a wide range of topic areas, and the homelessness definitions used in each varied considerably. Studies were categorised into several topic areas: Mortality, morbidity and COVID-19; health care usage and hospital re-admission; care home admission and shelter stay; and other (e.g. employment, crime victimisation). The studies reported that that the physical and mental health of people who experience homelessness was worse than that of the general population. Homeless individuals were more likely to have higher risk of hospitalisation, more likely to use emergency departments, have higher mortality rates and were at greater risk of needing intensive care or of dying from COVID-19 compared with general population. Additionally, homeless individuals were more likely to be incarcerated or unemployed. The effects were strongest for those who experienced being homeless as a child compared to those who experienced being homeless later on in life.

This is the first systematic review of whole-population observational studies that used administrative data to identify causes and consequences associated with individuals who are experiencing homelessness. While the scientific literature provides evidence on some of the possible risk factors associated with being homeless, research into this research topic has been limited and gaps still remain. There is a need for more standardised best practice approaches to understand better the causes and consequences associated with being homeless.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1610
Pages (from-to)1610
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by the Economic and Social Research Council (Award number: ES/S00744X/1 – 2021.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature.


  • Observational studies
  • Record linkage
  • Administrative data
  • Healthcare
  • Data linkage
  • Systematic review
  • Homelessness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this