Does Substance Abuse Lead to Homelessness or Vice Versa?


There are strong links between substance abuse and homelessness, according to three Australian researchers writing in Social Science & Medicine. However, they argue, contrary to common beliefs, there seem to be no causal relationships between the two, with the possible exception of “risky” alcohol consumption.

Researchers examine data from four Australian surveys involving 1,325 people who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and investigate “dynamics in homelessness and substance use.” They argue that homeless individuals are more likely to be substance users and substance users are more likely to be homeless. “These relationships, however, are predominantly driven by observed and unobserved individual characteristics which cause individuals to be both more likely to be homeless and to be substance users,” the researchers argue.

McVicar, Duncan, Julie Moschion, and Jan C. van Ours. “From Substance Use to Homelessness or Vice Versa?” Social Science & Medicine. Accessed May 13, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.05.005. (Abstract)


  1. How many people start abusing substances when they are in a bad situation in their lives? If anything I’d suspect that homelessness causes alcohol problems more than in the reverse direction.

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