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Depression among the Homeless

Mark La Gory, Ferris J. Ritchey and Jeff Mullis
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 31, No. 1 (Mar., 1990), pp. 87-102
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2137047
Page Count: 16
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Depression among the Homeless
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Abstract

Very little is known about one of the most common mental health problems facing the homeless: high levels of depressive symptomatology. This paper explains variation in the prevalence of depressive symptoms (CES-D) for a random sample of 150 shelter- and street-based homeless persons in the Birmingham metropolitan area. Fifty-nine percent of the sample show the signs of "probable clinical caseness"; yet there is significant variation in the level of symptomatology. A modified version of the social resources model explains 31 percent of the variation in CES-D scores. Although psychological resources play an important role in the distress outcome, as predicted, social supports are found to have limited impact on depression. Life circumstances have significant direct effects on depression. Persons with previous histories of mental illness and with extensive life event histories are more susceptible to distress. Younger persons, the chronically homeless, the street-based homeless, the sick, and the less educated are also more likely to experience depression. This study suggests the importance of understanding homelessness both as a psychological condition and as a complex set of life circumstances and physical deprivations.

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