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Interventions to improve the mental health of women experiencing homelessness: A systematic review of the literature

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Peer-reviewed

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Article

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Authors

Kosmala-Anderson, Joanna 
Trevella, Charlotte 

Abstract

Background

Homelessness is a growing public health challenge in the United Kingdom and internationally, with major consequences for physical and mental health. Women represent a particularly vulnerable subgroup of the homeless population, with some evidence suggesting that they suffer worse mental health outcomes than their male counterparts. Interventions aimed at improving the lives of homeless women have the potential to enhance mental health and reduce the burden of mental illness in this population. This review synthesised the evidence on the effectiveness and acceptability of interventions which aim to improve mental health outcomes in homeless women. Methods

Five electronic bibliographic databases: MEDLINE, PsycInfo, CINAHL, ASSIA and EMBASE, were searched. Studies were included if they measured the effectiveness or acceptability of any intervention in improving mental health outcomes in homeless women. Study quality was assessed using the Effective Public Health Practice Project (EPHPP) Quality Assessment Tool. A narrative summary of the study findings in relation to the research questions was produced. Results

Thirty-nine studies met inclusion criteria. Overall, there was moderate evidence of the effectiveness of interventions in improving mental health outcomes in homeless women, both immediately post-intervention and at later follow-up. The strongest evidence was for the effectiveness of psychotherapy interventions. There was also evidence that homeless women find interventions aimed at improving mental health outcomes acceptable and helpful. Conclusions

Heterogeneity in intervention and study methodology limits the ability to draw definitive conclusions about the extent to which different categories of intervention improve mental health outcomes in homeless women. Future research should focus on lesser-studied intervention categories, subgroups of homeless women and mental health outcomes. More in-depth qualitative research of factors that enhance or diminish the acceptability of mental health interventions to homeless women is also required.

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Journal Title

PLoS ONE

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Journal ISSN

1932-6203
1932-6203

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Publisher

Public Library of Science (PLoS)