Study shows the importance of interpersonal relationships in improving the health of homeless individuals.
A study carried out by the Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology at the UPV/EHU’s Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology highlights the importance of establishing interpersonal relationships to improve the perception that homeless people have about their health. It also suggests that day centers are not just used for basic needs, such as food and hygiene, but also for building social relationships.
Homelessness is a multifaceted issue that is caused by structural factors like insufficient or inadequate health or social systems, unaffordable accommodation, and/or personal factors like mental disorders, poverty or health problems. More than 700,000 homeless individuals reside in Europe and the trend is expected to continue to increase in the next few years. In the Basque Country there are around 2,800 people living in severe residential exclusion. In the light of these figures, a major issue is the creation of new research that will help understand the situation of this group.
This study examined the impact of social services (day centres and health centres) on homeless people as well as street dwellers’ perceptions about their health. on their perceptions of health.”
Igor Esnaola Echaniz, Researcher, UPV/EHU Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology
To accomplish this, “we used the data supplied by the Social Information and Research Service (SIIS) in the IV Study on the situation of people who are in a position of serious residential exclusion in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country in 2018. The Basque Country is one of the communities most committed to the issue of homelessness in Spain and has been conducting research every two years since 2012. The fieldwork consisted in two actions: first the night count and secondly interviews that were conducted at the various day centers,” stated the UPV/EHU researcher.
“The results of this research indicate that sex isn’t significant in relation to the health of this population. However, the length of time spent on streets has been shown to have an enormous influence. In other words, the more time a person has been homeless, the worse the perception of their health is. Homelessness for long periods is strongly associated with a poor perception of health,” said Igor Esnaola.
“The second objective of this research,” as the UPV/EHU researcher stated, “was to analyze the impact of certain interpersonal relationships (family, friends etc.). The effects of this variable match what was expected a priori. It is believed that having contact with family members when homeless will help one to feel more positive about one’s health. People who live in solitude are believed to have a poorer perception of their health than those in a group.
“The results also showed that those who use health and mental health centres have a poor perception of their health. In other words, if homeless individuals use both of these facilities this indicates that their health is not as good as they would like it to be,” he added. In the end, “the use of day centres has a positive influence on the perceptions of those who use them about their health. This means that more positive perceptions of health is a reality for those who attend day centres, because they can meet, socialize, and get to know people they can talk to or with whom they can amuse themselves”, said the author of the study.
“This research emphasizes the importance of establishing interpersonal relationships and using day centers to improve the health of homeless people. Evidence suggests that encouraging or instilling social connections, attempting to build relationships with family members or even the possibility of having social contact improves the health perception of homeless people. Therefore, instead of focusing on providing food hygiene, a bed, or a bathroom, initiatives that contribute towards the health of homeless people should also focus on prevention strategies that address the factors that affect the health of the homeless, for example, the possibility of engaging in social interactions and reestablishing family connections,” stressed Igor Esnaola.
Fajardo-Bullon, F., et al. (2021) The Association of Interpersonal Relationships and Social Services with the self-rated health of Spanish Homelessness. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18179392.
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