Out of Pain – Breaking the Cycle of Physical Pain and Homelessness

Groundswell’s new research – Out of Pain – reveals the widespread impact of chronic pain on people experiencing homelessness. Chronic pain is severely damaging the lives of people who are homeless, and there is evidence to prove that it may be a contributing factor to why many people become homeless and is a factor perpetuating a cycle of homelessness.

Trust for London logo
Graphic portraying a headache or migraine
a graphic of a spine showing pain
Graphic of a broken joint
Graphic of someone with a sore knee

Out of Pain is a research study into the extent, cause and impact of physical pain on people experiencing homelessness, which was conducted by Groundswell and led by peer researchers. The project is funded by Trust for London.

The research engaged 269 people currently experiencing homelessness through focus groups and one-to-one survey-based interviews. Key findings include:

  • 62% reported to be currently experiencing physical pain.
  • 53% have been experiencing chronic pain. Almost a quarter (24%) had been suffering from physical pain for 10 years or more.
  • There was a high prevalence of specific conditions among participants: Nearly a quarter (23%) had received a diagnosis of arthritis. 12% had received a diagnosis of Cluster Headaches compared to less than 1% of the general population.
The front cover of the out of pain research report

To view the Out of Pain Report click on the image above.

Physical pain was highlighted as an issue that had contributed to why many people had become homeless. In many cases homelessness had been a cause and a compounding factor on physical pain and the day to day realities made it difficult for people to manage pain on an ongoing basis.

  • 39% of respondents said that physical pain had contributed to them becoming homeless.
  • 87% agreed that sleeping out means aches and pains.
  • 57% said physical pain had affected their mental health.
  • Over half (52%) agreed that boredom made it difficult to stop thinking about their pain.

Many participants found it difficult to access the treatment and support they  need.

  • Among those experiencing chronic pain, three quarters (74%)had been to A&E in the last year, nearly all (85%) because of their physical pain.
  • Amongst participants in chronic pain the most common medical response was prescription medication, although less than half (47%) in this group wanted to be treated in this way.
  • Short prescriptions and difficulty in the ongoing management of medication was highlighted by some participants; 54% of participants said that their tolerance to pain medication had been affected by their drug use.
  • Almost a third (28%) of people experiencing chronic pain reported obtaining opioids without a prescription in order to try and manage the pain themselves.

Groundswell is campaigning to increase awareness of the issue in order to secure better access to healthcare for people experiencing homelessness.

Lots of people that are homeless have more medical issues than people that are settled, because very often it’s their medical conditions that make them homeless because it makes them unemployable.”- Research Participant

There is nothing that I could do to make it go away.  Nothing.  Doesn’t matter the amount of drugs. The kind of drugs.  Nothing seems to take it away.”

– Research Participant

“I mean I am in constant pain.  My knees, my hands, my back. But the doctor has said to me ‘where is the pain?’ And I say all over my body. Because there is not one part where there is not a pain.”

Research Participant

Out of Pain Guide.

We’ve produced an Out of Pain Guide to help people experiencing physical pain to think about their pain – and what makes a difference. It highlights key findings of the research and offers practical advice and steps you can take to manage chronic pain. It includes a poster that can be put on the wall of your service. The guide is designed to be printed on an A3 printer and folded down to A5 paper size.

Click on the image to the right to view the guide

The out of pain guide