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There are almost 2.5 million youth in this country who experience homelessness each year, and while suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 10-24 in the U.S., it is the leading cause of death among unaccompanied homeless youth. A new study, “Emotional Health Among Youth Experiencing Family Homelessness,” published in the April 2018 Pediatrics (published online March 19) found that youth experiencing family homelessness—homelessness with their families—are at greater risk of emotional distress, self-injurious behavior, suicidal ideation, and attempted suicide than their non-homeless peers. Researchers studied the responses of 62,034 children in 8th, 9th and 11th grades from the 2013 Minnesota Student Survey, a statewide survey of children attending Minnesota public schools. They found that 4.1 percent reported that during the past year they had stayed in a shelter, or another similar situation, because they had no other place to stay. Homeless youth were more likely than non-homeless to be male (54.9 percent vs 49.1 percent) and youth of color (40.7 percent vs. 24 percent), and over twice as likely to have levels of emotional distress, self-injury, and suicidal thinking, and over three times as likely to attempt suicide within the last 12 months — independent of race or family income. Researchers conclude that while this research shows that there are often positive factors in the lives of youth who are homeless with their families, they do not seem to benefit from these good things as much as their non-homeless peers, and that further research is needed into health and educational services and policies that support stable and sustainable family housing.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 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. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds