Homeless Individuals Face 16-Fold Increased Risk of Sudden Death

Those who are homeless have a 16-fold increased risk of sudden death from heart attacks and other causes., said a study led by UC San Francisco.

The researchers focused on San Francisco County, an area with one of the highest concentrations of people without home in the nation, and discovered that The rate of sudden cardiac death in the homeless population was found to be 7 times higher than the general population.


The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, uncovered the harsh reality that homeless individuals have a significantly shorter life expectancy, with an average age of death at 50. Researchers identified both cardiac and non-cardiac causes contributing to sudden deaths among the homeless population. Non-cardiac causes, such as drug overdoses, gastrointestinal disorders, and infections, were more prevalent in the homeless population.


Paramedic response times were found to be similar between those without home and housed populations. To address this issue, the study suggests implementing public health interventions such as increasing the availability of automatic external defibrillators and intensifying efforts to treat substance use and targeted immunization efforts. These measures may help reduce sudden mortality among the homeless, emphasizing the need for policies and resources to improve the health and well-being of this vulnerable population.

The study’s corresponding and senior author, Zian H. Tseng, MD, MAS, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at UCSF, commented, “These findings offer several novel insights into the profound impact of homelessness on sudden death and its underlying causes.” The study highlights the urgent need for improved public health policies and resources to support the homeless and address the disparities in health outcomes faced by this population.


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