Self‐reported health, healthcare service use and health‐related needs: A comparison of older and younger homeless people

S.I. van Dongen*, B. van Straaten, J.R.L.M. Wolf, B. D Onwuteaka‐Philipsen, A. van der Heide, J. A. Rietjens, D. van de Mheen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
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The number of older homeless people with a limited life expectancy is increasing. European studies on their health‐related characteristics are lacking. This study compared self‐reported health, healthcare service use and health‐related needs of older and younger homeless people in the Netherlands. It is part of a cohort study that followed 513 homeless people in the four major Dutch cities for a period of 2.5 years, starting from the moment they registered at the social relief system in 2011. Using cross‐sectional data from 378 participants who completed 2.5‐year follow‐up, we analysed differences in self‐reported health, healthcare service use, and health‐related needs between homeless adults aged ≥50 years (N = 97) and <50 years (N = 281) by means of logistic regression. Results show that statistically significantly more older than younger homeless people reported cardiovascular diseases (23.7% versus 10.3%), visual problems (26.8% versus 14.6%), limited social support from family (33.0% versus 19.6%) and friends or acquaintances (27.8% versus 14.6%), and medical hospital care use in the past year (50.5% versus 34.5%). Older homeless people statistically significantly less often reported cannabis (12.4% versus 45.2%) and excessive alcohol (16.5% versus 27.0%) use in the past month and dental (20.6% versus 46.6%) and mental (16.5% versus 25.6%) healthcare use in the past year. In both age groups, few people reported unmet health‐related needs. In conclusion, compared to younger homeless adults, older homeless adults report fewer substance use problems, but a similar number of dental and mental problems, and more physical and social problems. The multiple health problems experienced by both age groups are not always expressed as needs or addressed by healthcare services. Older homeless people seem to use more medical hospital care and less non‐acute, preventive healthcare than younger homeless people. This vulnerable group might benefit from shelter‐based or community outreach programmes that proactively provide multidisciplinary healthcare services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E379-E388
JournalHealth & Social Care in the Community
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • care needs
  • homelessness
  • older people
  • perceived health
  • service use
  • social support


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