Study highlights alarming mobility problems among Dublin’s homeless population.

Photo by Stephen Sharpe

A recent study by researchers from Trinity Collge has shown alarming levels of physical and mobility problems among people within Dublin’s homeless population. 

The study which involved 65 participants (32.3% female, 66.7% male) was carried out in St James’s Hospital and initiated by the Physiotherapy Department, Trinity College and Inclusion Health Team at St James’s Hospital.

Of the participants who took part in the study, 64.0% used hostel accommodation, 17% were rough sleepers, with a total of 83% reporting mobility issues. Further investigation found that only 31% could attempt to climb one flight of stairs, only 38% could walk for six minutes, with over half experiencing at least one fall within the last six months. 

Over 50% reported consuming excess alcohol alongside mobility issues, with 20.0% having confirmed alcohol-related liver disease. A further 25% also classified themselves as active heroin users. 

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Physiotherapy researcher Sinead Kiernan who conducted the study believes her findings can lend to a better service provision and outcomes for this study group. 

Adults who are homeless experience poor health and frequently require hospital in-patient care, but the physical functioning ability of this group is rarely considered. The objective of this study was to evaluate a broad range of physical functioning variables to enable better future planning of targeted health and accommodation services for this group.

Kiernan, S., Ní Cheallaigh, C., Murphy, N. et al. Markedly poor physical functioning status of people experiencing homelessness admitted to an acute hospital setting. Sci Rep 11, 9911 (2021).

The report’s recommendations conclude the following;

  • Medical and rehabilitation services are needed to treat mobility issues as some may be reversible with appropriate physiotherapy provision.
  • Physiotherapy and other physical rehabilitation services are a priority for this group.
  • Appropriate community and outreach services are also necessary as it is likely that ongoing support will be needed after discharge from the hospital.
  • Specific community-based onward referral services are also required.
  • And finally, the research team recommends that housing policy responds to the physical health needs of homeless people along with housing and accommodation services designed with accessibility in mind.

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