Cognitive impairment and homelessness: A scoping review

Beth Stone*, Sandra Dowling, Ailsa Cameron, Demi Patsios

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)
777 Downloads (Pure)


This paper reports the findings of a scoping review designed to identify research which has explored the relationship between cognitive impairment and homelessness. A systematic search of databases for articles published between 2007 and 2017 was conducted using keywords relating to cognitive impairments and homelessness. Sources were expanded using manual searches of citations and grey literature. Forty studies represented in 45 papers were selected for review using predefined inclusion criteria. Sources were subject to quality appraisal and data was extracted in line with review questions. Prevalence studies were overrepresented in the review, whilst qualitative data was lacking. Aetiology of impairments was delineated by acquired and developmental causes. A variety of measures were employed by studies which were not validated in homeless populations. Studies did not give sufficient consideration to co-occurring disorders and overlapping symptoms between aetiologies. Because of these factors, it was difficult to conclude all studies had accurately measured what they set out to, however, the evidence suggested cognitive impairment was disproportionately over-represented in homeless populations. Cognitive impairment was found to be both a risk factor to and perpetuator of homelessness. Risk factors for homelessness were similar to those of the general population, though exaggerated by sequalae of certain cognitive impairments. The results of this review suggest more attention needs to be paid to the underlying socio-economic disadvantages persons with cognitive impairments face which may lead to homelessness. Further research should prioritise the voice of homeless persons with cognitive impairments, to better understand both causes of homelessness and effective methods of rehabilitation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e125-e142
Number of pages18
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number4
Early online date13 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • brain injury
  • cognitive impairment
  • developmental disabilities
  • homelessness
  • scoping review


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