Healthcare Learning - Topics Mental Health Public Health and Careers

Sleeplessness of Australians explored in new national study


A new report from the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness and the Centre for Social Impact shows thousands of Australians struggle with sleeplessness.

Released on Monday, the report “Ending Homelessness in Australia: An Evidence and Policy Deep Dive” draws on surveys collected from 20,953 people who struggle with sleeplessness have come into contact with homelessness services across Australia over the past 10 years.

Prof Paul Flatau, director of the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia and lead author of the report, says the dataset is the largest of its kind and the report marks the first time it has been analysed.

“We have done lots of studies in the past but it’s usually on a relatively small number of people in the inner cities – a single place for one intervention – or it’s using census data, or data from one organisation,” Flatau says.

“This is quite unique because it’s very big – a really large, deep and rich database that we can use to understand the circumstances and journeys of people in very precarious situations.”

Of the 20,953 respondents experiencing homelessness, 35% were experiencing rough sleeplessness and 44% were in temporary accommodation or short-term accommodation. The average amount of time they reported experiencing homelessness was 3.8 years. For families, it was 1.9 years.

Health was a principal issue, with prevalence rates of asthma, liver disease, dehydration, hepatitis, heart disease and diabetes among people who were homeless all higher than the general population.

Almost a third of respondents (31%) said they had been taken to a hospital against their will for mental health reasons.

More than a quarter (26%) of people said they had been discriminated against by homelessness or housing services due to their age, race, appearance, disabilities, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Named after an international movement that aims to end homelessness, the Advance to Zero database also includes a mechanism to track individuals as they move through the system, which researchers say will deepen our understanding of the circumstances that lead someone into homelessness in the first place.

For those familiar with the plight of people experiencing homelessness in Australia, the findings merely reinforce the urgency of the issue.

Research shows new funding is critical to address the massive shortfall in social and public housing, but actual housing needs to be matched with appropriate support services for those people who do finally end up with a secure roof over their heads.

“We’ve seen the states and territories increase investment in public and community housing which is great but they’re still way below the actual targets,” Flatau says.

“We need a national strategy with national targets, with good target setting and good monitoring. We need a federal government that takes homelessness seriously again.”


Original content from The Guardian. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.

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Nina Alvarez is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel. Her interests include writing, particularly about the healthcare sector and the many ways it can improve to further benefit people from all walks of life.


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