Traumatic brain injury is common among homeless people and is associated with poorer health, found a study of more than 900 homeless men and women in Toronto. Health problems include an increased risk of seizures, mental health problems, drug problems, and poorer physical and mental health status.
In this study of people in Toronto’s shelter system or who use meal programs, 58% of homeless men and 42% of homeless women had a history of traumatic brain injury. All participants had valid provincial health insurance.
For many people, the first incidence of traumatic brain injury often occurred at a young age and “suggests that, in some cases, traumatic brain injury may be a causal factor that contributes to the onset of homelessness, possibly due to cognitive or behavioral problems as a result of the traumatic brain injury,” state Dr. Stephen Hwang, a physician and research scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, and coauthors.
If you think brain injury means only serious injuries like flying through the windshield of a car or falling off the roof onto your head, you are wrong. If doesn’t have to be a “serious” injury to have serious consequences for your health. Traumatic brain injury can result from falls, physical abuse, motor vehicle accidents and assaults.
These findings have implications in providing health care to homeless people, as some difficult behaviors in patients may be due to the results of brain injury. Appropriate supports may help mitigate the effects of these behaviors, suggest the authors. There have only been 2 previous studies of this kind, both of which had small sample sizes.
Health care professionals need to ask homeless people if they have had traumatic brain injuries when providing health care. Neuropsychological screening, referral to rehabilitation programs and other community supports should be considered for the individual, write the authors.
Another scary takeaway from this study is the potential for brain injuries to derail your potential and ruin a person’s life. Brain trauma is much more common than you think. Each year, two million new brain injuries are reported, and millions more go unreported. And studies show that people who have suffered brain injuries, even mild ones, often experience emotional, behavioral, or cognitive problems.
It’s critical that you need to keep your brain and body in tip-top shape and protect your brain from injury. Avoid activities that would cause trauma to the brain. And at the very least, don’t go around hitting soccer balls with your head and wear a helmet that fits when you ride a bicycle, ski, or snowboard.
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