The bidirectional association between psychiatric disorders and sheltered homelessness

Sandra Feodor Nilsson, Theresa Wimberley, Helene Speyer, Carsten Hjorthøj, Seena Fazel, Merete Nordentoft, Thomas Munk Laursen

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Psychiatric disorders and homelessness are related, but temporal associations are unclear. We aimed to explore the overlap between hospital-based psychiatric disorders and sheltered homelessness.

METHODS: This population-based cohort study was conducted using the Danish registers e.g., the Danish Homeless Register and the Danish National Patient Register. The study cohort included all individuals aged 15 years or older, living in Denmark at least one day during 2002-2021 (born 1984-2006). First psychiatric diagnosis was used to define psychiatric disorder and first homeless shelter contact to define homelessness. Adjusted incidence rate ratios (IRRs) and cumulative incidences were estimated.

RESULTS: Among 1 530 325 individuals accounting for 16 787 562 person-years at risk aged 15-38 years, 11 433 (0.8%) had at least one homeless shelter contact. Among 1 406 410 individuals accounting for 14 131 060 person-years at risk, 210 730 had at least one psychiatric disorder. People with any psychiatric disorder had increased risk of sheltered homelessness relative to individuals with no psychiatric disorder [IRR 9.2, 95% confidence interval (CI) 8.8-9.6]. Ten years after first psychiatric disorder, 3.0% (95% CI 2.9-3.1) had at least one homeless shelter contact. Individuals experiencing homelessness had increased risk of any psychiatric disorder compared to individuals with no homeless shelter contact (IRR 7.0, 95% CI 6.7-7.4). Ten years after first homeless shelter contact, 47.1% (45.3-48.0) had received a hospital-based psychiatric diagnosis.

CONCLUSION: Strong bidirectional associations between psychiatric disorders and homelessness were identified. Health and social care professionals should be aware of and address these high risks of accumulated psychiatric and social problems.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Medicine
Pages (from-to)742-752
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • social determinants of health
  • Health policy
  • homeless youth
  • substance-related disorders
  • psychiatry
  • ill-housed persons
  • public health
  • minority groups


Dive into the research topics of 'The bidirectional association between psychiatric disorders and sheltered homelessness'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this