New research highlights health needs and experiences of young homeless people

MPs are being urged to help improve the health outcomes of young homeless people with the launch of a new report into young homeless people's health needs and experiences of health care services.

The report 'Making It Matter: Improving the Health of Young Homeless People' will be launched in Parliament on April 18 by AstraZeneca, as part of its Young Health Programme in partnership with Depaul UK, the largest national youth homelessness charity.

A wide-ranging comparative review amongst over 380 homeless and non-homeless young people, the research shows that young homeless people experience significantly poorer health than their peers, are more likely to use emergency health services and face considerable barriers in accessing the care they need.

The initial focus of the three year partnership between Depaul UK and AstraZeneca was to gather evidence and obtain a clear picture of the health and wellbeing experiences of this vulnerable group of people. These findings will be used to develop interventions to improve physical and mental health and will also help inform current policy and practice.

Paul Marriott, Chief Executive of Depaul UK said, "Homelessness and health are hugely intertwined. Health is often a low priority for young people whose focus is on getting a roof over their heads and some stability in their lives. This important and timely research, based on the perceptions and experience of young homeless people, provides us with knowledge of where changes are needed. It also gives us, and other practitioners and agencies working in the field of health and youth homelessness, opportunities to consider how we can best meet the needs of this client group.

Given the changes to the structure of the health system, we also need to make sure that those of us working with young homeless people, and the young people themselves, have a way of ensuring that our voices are heard and views included at a local level."

Catriona McMahon, Medical and Regulatory Affairs Director, AstraZeneca said, "This comprehensive research contains some stark statistics regarding young homeless people's poor state of health. AstraZeneca's Young Health Programme aims to help disadvantaged young people deal with the health issues they face. We look forward to the next phase of our partnership with Depaul UK and to developing solutions which help young homeless people improve their chances of living a healthier life."

Paul Burstow MP, Minister of State for Care Services, added, "I very much welcome the research carried out by Depaul UK and AstraZeneca on the health of the young homeless population. This research will serve to strengthen the evidence base on health outcomes, and highlight where barriers to accessing health services still exist.

The Department of Health is committed to addressing the health needs of those most vulnerable to poor health outcomes. The difference in health outcomes between the young homeless and the rest of the population is unacceptable and we must do something about it.

I represent the Department of Health on the Ministerial Working Group on homelessness. We published our first report last July and are currently in the process of developing a second report, which will focus on what steps can be taken to prevent homelessness and integrate services for homeless people.

Within a broad strategy to tackle health inequalities across the country, we are also addressing the health needs of those vulnerable to poor health outcomes through the Inclusion Health programme. This research by Depaul UK and AstraZeneca will help to inform this agenda."

Key findings

  • 40% of young homeless people are likely to be experiencing depression compared 21% of non-homeless young people
  • 27% of homeless young people have been diagnosed with a mental health condition by a doctor condition by a doctor compared with 7% of the group of non-homeless young people
  • Compared with peers Depaul clients have higher usage of walk-in clinics, ambulance and A&E services and are more frequently admitted to hospitals. In the last 12 months, just over a third of the homeless young people had visited A&E (37%); a quarter had been in an ambulance (24%) and a quarter had been admitted to hospital (27%). Control group: A&E – 14%; ambulance – 3%; hospital admittance – 6%.
  • 35% respondents said that they wanted more mental health support
  • 17% of Depaul clients consider themselves to have a disability compared to 4% of the group of non-homeless young people
  • Two thirds (64%) of young homeless people smoke every day, smoking an average of 63 cigarettes a week, compared to only 5% and 28 cigarettes per week for control group
  • Diet and nutrition rarely considered to be a health concern or priority – only 2% eat 5 a day compared to 11%; only 73% have at least 2 meals a day compared to 95%
  • 37% never eat fruit or veg compared to 6%; 11% eat fast food every day compared to 1% of the group of non- homeless young people
  • The group of non homeless young people reported significantly higher levels of wellbeing than the Depaul UK group.
  • Young homeless people do not consider health and health-related issues to be a problem or priority for them – other issues such as the need for housing and employment are more pressing
  • Long waiting times lead to a lack of timely care which is especially vital in this group where help, particularly for mental health issues, is sought at the point of crisis

The report includes recommendations for commissioners and providers to ensure that the needs of young homeless people are at the centre of their care

For policymakers

  • Ensuring that organisations such as Healthwatch England & local HealthWatch have the skills and knowledge to engage and consult young homeless people in order to ensure that they are represented in national and local decisions

For commissioners

  • Integration is key: services for young homeless people should be easily accessible in places such as drop-in centres; and mental health services should not exclude people who take drugs or alcohol and vice versa; and consideration needs to be given to bridging the gap between child and adult

For Health and Wellbeing Boards

  • Direct recognition in Health and Wellbeing strategies of the complex needs of young homeless people, including strategies to ensure the provision of joined up services and specialist commissioning for this group.

For Depaul UK and AZ

  • Build upon Depaul UK's services and programmes, to increase training and support for staff in mental health issues, including building better links with clinical services, and to ensure that young homeless people have access to appropriate resources that will impact upon physical and mental health and wellbeing, including the opportunity to access peer to peer support.

Notes To Editors

  1. 'Making It Matter: Improving the Health of Young Homeless People' was research carried out between May and October 2011 and in which more than 380 young people (16 to 25) participated. A health questionnaire was completed by about 130 young people from Depaul UK services and by a control group of 200 young people from around the UK. Four focus groups and 26 individual interviews with young people also took place. A group of young homeless people were trained in research skills and carried out research with their peers. Ethnographic films were made with four young people from Depaul UK services. More than 25 Depaul UK staff members took part in interviews and regional focus groups. In addition a steering group of experts guided the research and met to discuss its findings and recommendations.
  2. A summary of the report can be downloaded at
  3. About Depaul UK. Depaul UK is the UK’s largest youth homelessness charity. It provides and supports over 125,000 bednights a year to homeless and vulnerable young people and has helped more than 50,000 people since it was founded in 1989. The charity continues to work with more than 5,000 young people a year. Depaul UK is the new name for Depaul Trust, Registered Charity No .802384. Twitter @depauluk
  4. About AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business with a primary focus on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines. As a leader in gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neuroscience, respiratory and inflammation, oncology and infectious disease medicines, we invest around £3.1 billion in R&D each year. For more information please visit:
  5. About the Young Health Programme, AstraZeneca is committed globally to a long term community investment programme to improve the health of young disadvantaged people. It aims to reach one million young people aged 10 to 24 by 2015. In the UK, AstraZeneca is partnering with Depaul UK to improve the health of young homeless people.



Kate Summerside, Communications Manager, Depaul UK,

Tel: +44(0)207 939 1280


Simon Moore, Director, UK Corporate Communications, AstraZeneca Corporate Affairs Communications & Corporate Responsibility

+44 (0)1582 836 460 M: +44 (0) 7824 350 566