Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 354–375 | Cite as

The Mental and Physical Health of Homeless Youth: A Literature Review

  • Jennifer P. Edidin
  • Zoe Ganim
  • Scott J. Hunter
  • Niranjan S. Karnik
Review Paper


Youth homelessness is a growing concern in the United States. Despite difficulties studying this population due to inconsistent definitions of what it means to be a youth and homeless, the current body of research indicates that abuse, family breakdown, and disruptive family relationships are common contributing factors to youth homelessness. Moreover, the experience of homelessness appears to have numerous adverse implications and to affect neurocognitive development and academics, as well as mental and physical health. Substance use, sexually transmitted infections, and psychiatric disorders are particularly prevalent in this population. Whereas some of these problems may be short-lived, the chronic stress and deprivation associated with homelessness may have long-term effects on development and functioning. Further, difficulties accessing adequate and developmentally-appropriate health care contribute to more serious health concerns. Suggestions for future research and interventions are discussed.


Youth homelessness Mental health Substance use Sexually transmitted infections 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral NeuroscienceUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Education and Early Childhood DevelopmentVictoriaAustralia

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