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Study: Runaway and Homeless Teens Have Overlapping but Distinct Mental Health Needs

3/9/2020

​New research in the April 2020 Pediatrics suggests that the experience of running away comes with increased mental health risks for teens, above and beyond those linked with unaccompanied homelessness. For the study, “Mental Health Outcomes among Homeless, Runaway, and Stably Housed Youth” (published online March 9), researchers analyzed data from nearly 69,000 9th and 11th grade students responding to the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey, one of the longest running youth surveys in the nation. Respondents were categorized into four subgroups based on housing status in the prior year: those in stable housing (95%); runaway youth (4%); unaccompanied homeless youth (0.5%); and those who had both run away and been homeless (0.6%). Researchers found that 11% of homeless youth, 20% of runaways, and 33% of those who had experienced both had attempted suicide in the prior year, compared with 2% of the teens with stable housing. Study authors said that while homeless and runaway children and teens are often pooled together in both research and interventions, their findings show that a large majority of runaway youth did not also report unaccompanied homelessness. They conclude that homeless and runaway youth are sometimes overlapping, but distinct groups with unique mental health needs that may requiring targeted services and policies.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.