Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 96, Issue 6, pp 432–437 | Cite as

The Health of Street Youth

A Canadian Perspective
  • Jean-François Boivin
  • Élise Roy
  • Nancy Haley
  • Guillaume Galbaud du Fort


Objective: To review epidemiologic studies of the health of street youth in industrialized countries, with a special focus on Canadian youth.

Methods: We identified 52 peer-reviewed studies from searches of the MEDLINE database and bibliographies of published papers, for data on blood-borne and sexually transmitted infections, mental health problems, pregnancy, violence and mortality.

Results: Rates of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV infection are much higher among street youth than among their non-street peers. Likewise, the prevalence of all mental health problems assessed in street youth is greater than that in non-street youth. Pregnancy is more frequent among street than household youth. Street youth also experience high levels of violence: a large proportion report physical abuse or assault. Finally, mortality is about 11 times the expected rate based on age and sex and is mainly caused by suicide and drug overdose.

Conclusion: Current research results are useful to orient public health interventions for street youth, but further epidemiologic research is needed. The need for Canadian data is particularly acute in specific areas including mental health, violence, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections such as, for example, herpes infection and syphilis.

MeSH terms: Homeless youth; communicable diseases; sexually transmitted diseases; mental disorders; violence; mortality.

MeSH terms

Homeless youth communicable diseases sexually transmitted diseases mental disorders violence mortality 


Objectif: Examiner les données épidémiologiques concernant la santé des jeunes de la rue des pays industrialisés, en portant une attention particulière aux études canadiennes.

Méthode: À partir de la base de données MEDLINE et des bibliographies d’articles publiés, nous avons répertorié 52 études évaluées par des pairs. Nous avons ainsi obtenu des données sur les infections transmises sexuellement ou par le sang, les problèmes de santé mentale, la grossesse, la violence et la mortalité.

Résultats: Les taux d’hépatite B, d’hépatite C et d’infection par le VIH sont beaucoup plus élevés chez les jeunes de la rue que chez les autres jeunes. De même, la prévalence de tous les problèmes de santé mentale étudiés chez les jeunes de la rue est plus importante que celle observée chez ceux ne vivant pas dans la rue. La grossesse est plus fréquente chez les jeunes filles de la rue que chez celles qui ont un domicile. Les jeunes de la rue vivent aussi dans un climat de violence, et beaucoup d’entre eux ont subi des épisodes d’abus physique ou d’agression. Enfin, leur mortalité est environ 11 fois plus élevée que chez leurs pairs du même âge et du même sexe, et les principales causes de décès sont le suicide et les surdoses.

Conclusions: Les données actuellement disponibles sont très utiles pour orienter les mesures de santé publique auprès des jeunes de la rue, mais des études épidémiologiques complémentaires sont requises. Le besoin de données canadiennes est particulièrement aigu dans certains domaines comme la santé mentale, la violence, la grossesse et les infections transmises sexuellement, en particulier les infections causées par le virus de l’herpès et la syphilis.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-François Boivin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Élise Roy
    • 1
  • Nancy Haley
    • 1
  • Guillaume Galbaud du Fort
    • 2
  1. 1.Regional Public Health DepartmentInfectious Diseases UnitMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Clinical Epidemiology & Community StudiesSir Mortimer B. Davis - Jewish General HospitalMontrealCanada

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