To better inform treatment strategies, this study compared mental health, substance use, physical health, and social support among young, middle-aged, and older homeless adults before and after participation in intensive case management services.
Data were obtained from the Access to Community Care and Effective Services and Supports (ACCESS) public database. Young (age 18 to 34; N=2,469), middle-aged (age 35 to 54; N=4,358), and older (age 55 or older; N=408) homeless adults with a mental illness were compared on the basis of demographic characteristics and measures of substance use, mental and general medical health, and social support at baseline by using Kruskal-Wallis and chi square tests and at three-month and 12-month follow-ups by using mixed-model analysis.
Older adults had fewer severe mental health and substance abuse problems than the two groups of younger adults at baseline. At 12-month follow-up, all age groups had improvements in housing, substance use, and psychiatric symptoms, but rates of psychiatric symptoms had improved the most among young adults, and their scores for psychiatric symptoms were the lowest on average of any group. Compared with older adults, adults in the younger groups showed greater decreases in substance use.
Older homeless adults appeared to follow a different treatment trajectory than their younger counterparts, possibly because of lower severity of mental illness at baseline, and may need specific interventions to address their unique pathways to homelessness. (Psychiatric Services 63:561–568, 2012; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201100175)