The link between precarious housing and traumatic brain injury

May 17, 2022

A research team co-led by Simon Fraser University (SFU) Psychology Professor Allen Thornton has found that socially and economically vulnerable persons suffer from unprecedently high rates of traumatic brain injury (TBI), compared to other populations.

Thornton is an Investigator with the B.C. Mental Health and Substance Use Services Research Institute and heads SFU’s Human Neuropsychology Laboratory, which trains clinical scientists. The team at the lab investigates neuropsychological models of brain function with an interest in what factors alter cognitive and emotional functioning. 

Thornton and colleagues have been investigating TBI in vulnerably housed, marginalized persons. To spearhead their recent TBI work, the team published a meta-analysis in Lancet Public Health that estimated lifetime TBI occurrence of over 50 per cent in homeless and vulnerably housed samples.

Their subsequent prospective work, entitled Traumatic brain injury in precariously housed persons: Incidence and risks, clarified the gravity of the situation. The study reported in Lancet’s EClinicalMedicine, prospectively followed 326 precariously housed persons residing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) for one year with monthly assessments.