Mental health outcomes among homeless, runaway, and stably housed youth

Janna R. Gewirtz O’Brien, Laurel D. Edinburgh, Andrew J. Barnes, Annie Laurie McRee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Runaway youth and homeless youth are at risk for adverse mental health outcomes. These 2 populations are frequently pooled together in both research and interventions yet may have unique health needs. We sought to assess differences in mental health outcomes among these populations. METHODS: We conducted a secondary data analysis of ninth- and 11th-graders in the 2016 minnesota Student Survey (n = 68 785). We categorized youth into 4 subgroups based on housing status in the previous year: (1) unaccompanied homeless youth (0.5%), (2) runaway youth (4%), (3) youth who had both run away and been homeless (0.6%), and (4) stably housed youth (95%). We performed multivariable logistic regression to compare 4 mental health outcomes (self-injury, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and depressive symptoms) across groups, controlling for demographics and abuse history. RESULTS: Unstably housed youth had poorer mental health outcomes when compared with their stably housed peers (P, .05). For example, 11% of homeless youth, 20% of runaways, and 33% of youth who had experienced both had attempted suicide in the previous year compared with 2% of stably housed youth (adjusted odds ratios 2.4, 4.9, and 7.1, respectively). Other outcomes showed a similar pattern. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that runaway and homeless youth represent unique populations with high levels of mental health needs who would benefit from targeted clinical and community interventions. Pediatric clinicians represent one potential point of screening and intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20192674
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
FUNDING: Supported by the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health Training Project (Health Resources and Services Administration T71MC00006-39-02; principal investigator: Sieving) and the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities training program (Health Resources and Services Administration T73MC12835; principal investigator: Hewitt).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.


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