Approximately 1.7 million youths experience at least one night of homelessness every year, according to the National Network for Youth. And many of them go beyond one night without a stable home.
Yet, data on these students was never separated from their housed peers until the CDC's 2015 report on risky behavior in youth. Now, new research using this survey finds that homeless youth are at a much greater risk of suicide compared to their peers.
The Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness used the data to see how homeless students compared to students who have stable homes. They looked at the sample of 5,762 students in New York City who answered questions about housing. 712 of those students had experienced some form of homelessness, which could include living in a home that was not theirs or living in a shelter, The Huffington Post reports.
Homeless students were three times more likely to attempt suicide than students who lived at home with a parent or guardian, the study found. While only 6% of housed students contemplated suicide, 20% of homeless students did.
Other findings from the study may contribute to this risk, like that 40% of homeless teens have depression and that nearly one in four have been forced into unwanted sexual activity.
Teen homelessness is an epidemic at an all-time high, according to The Huffington Post. There are so many homeless youths that New York shelters turned away about 5,000 kids in 2012 due to a lack of beds.
“The long-term health and well-being of students experiencing homelessness are in danger, yet until now the unique needs and risks these students face have gone unrecognized,” the researchers wrote.
We're a long way off from solving youth homelessness, but even knowing the data on homelessness and health is a step toward making the lives of these kids better.
And the researchers are calling for even more steps. We need more data on this group of teens and kids even younger than them, they wrote, and for schools and shelters to expand resources for students' mental and physical health.