Effects of housing circumstances on health, quality of life and healthcare use for people with severe mental illness: a review

Tania Kyle, James R Dunn
Health & Social Care in the Community 2008, 16 (1): 1-15
Individuals with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI) identify housing as an important factor in achieving and maintaining their health. However, many live in substandard accommodations that are physically inadequate, crowded, noisy and located in undesirable neighbourhoods. In much of the research on housing for persons with SPMI, the central outcome of interest is remaining housed; however, it is worth investigating whether housing has other benefits. This paper is a systematic review of studies that investigated the relationship between housing-related independent variables and health-related dependent variables. Ten online databases were searched for studies published since 1980 that had study populations of adults with SPMI, analysed primary or secondary empirical data, and measured housing-related independent variables and health-related dependent variables. Clearly defined epidemiological criteria were used to assess the strength of evidence of the selected studies. Twenty-nine studies met the suitability criteria, of which 14 reported healthcare utilisation outcomes; 12 examined mental status outcomes; and 9 reported quality-of-life outcomes. The findings of the review suggest that there is good evidence that housing interventions benefit the homeless population; however more research is needed about housing solutions for individuals with SPMI who are housed, but in precarious or inappropriate housing situations. Study methodologies could be improved by emphasising longitudinal designs that focus on participant retention and by implementing matched control groups or randomised interventions to strengthen internal validity. Ensuring that a person is adequately housed upon discharge from hospital should be a treatment priority. When housing eligibility is not dependent on psychiatric treatment compliance and sobriety, providing permanent housing minimises harm and may free people to voluntarily seek treatment. Housing that offers an unlimited length of stay is recommended because SPMI is a chronic and fluctuating condition that requires stable surroundings to maintain health.


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