Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Life Expectancy of the Homeless

Time: 7:47am

Today's Thought For the Day on Radio 4 was inspired by yesterday's news on the life expectancy of homeless people in the UK: 47 years, about 30 years less than the rest of the population.

What I hadn't realised until the Rev Lucy Winkett led with it this morning is that there's a gender gap. It's homeless men that have a life expectancy of 47 years; homeless women have a life expectancy of 43 years. Both the poor statistics and the poor reporting piss me off.


swaldman said...

That's interesting, but may or may not be misleading...

I'm guessing that figure means that homeless people *who are homeless at the time of their death* have a lower average life expectancy if they are female (because collecting a better figure would be hard).

However, there are many more homeless men than homeless women. (I can't cite for that, but I've been told it by both Crisis people and a London council person responsible for knowing such things).

I don't know why this is in detail (I was given a few reasons by the people mentioned above, but I don't know what proportion of people each reason applies to), so I don't know whether this is because more men *become* homeless, or whether it means that homeless women are more likely to *stop* being homeless.
If the latter, then while the statistic that you mentioned (presumably) shows that dead homeless women are likely to be younger than dead homeless men, it doesn't actually represent the life expectancies of living homeless men or women. IYSWIM.

In any case, obviously the average-age-at-death of homeless men being being given as that of homeless people in general is bad reporting.
I don't disagree with your annoyance on either aspect, I just thought I'd muse on a related topic :-)

Kimberley said...

Musings on related topics are quite welcome! Yours are all good questions/points.

It seems the Guardian has changed the article to better reflect the imprecision of what these stats can tell us. For the rest, I must confess ignorance. I've got a couple of friends who work with homeless people too, one with Shelter and one with St Mungo's, so it looks like I'll have some questions for them the next time I see them!