Background Young drug misusers and the homeless both have a greater risk of death than their peers. This study sought to estimate the additional impact of homelessness on the risk of death for young drugs misusers.
Methods From all admissions to NHS hospitals in Scotland between 1986 and 2001, those that were: drug misuse related, for people born between 1970 and 1986 and aged over 15 years (n=13 303), were selected. All subsequent admissions and registrations of death were linked to this dataset. Each admission was coded as homeless if the health board of residence was coded as 'no fixed abode'. 5-year survival after an admission was modelled using (1) life table and (2) proportional hazard models and then (3) differences in causes of deaths were explored.
Results Immediately after a drugs-related hospital admission there was no difference in survival between the homeless and those with a 'fixed address'. However, over a 3-year period the risk for those who were homeless was 3.5 times greater (CI 95% 1.2 to 12.8). This elevated risk seemed to be particularly focused on the second year after an admission. The causes of death were similar for the two groups.
Conclusion Although a homeless hospital admission is associated with a greater risk of death for young drug users, it is also a point in time when a young person is in contact with public services. An attempt to link their discharge with housing services would seem a potentially productive policy.