Another statistic that will be abused

Researchers found people who live rough are likely to die more than 30 years earlier than the average British person.

According to new figures homeless people will die in their 40s – men on average at 47 while women have a life expectancy of 43.

The homeless life expectancy rate compares to that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, central Africa. In stark contrast, the average age of death for the general population in Britain currently is 77 years.

I\’ve no doubt that is true: with a certain caveat.

What they\’ve found is that the average age of death of those living rough is 47 and 43.

Which isn\’t the same at all as saying that living rough makes you die at those ages. For people move in and out of living rough. So what has been selected for is those who die while living rough…..who do indeed die at 47 and 43 on average.

You might think this is a trivial distinction but it isn\’t. By definition the measurement is of those who have died while living rough, not a measure of what living rough for some period of time, long or short, does to life span.

So it\’s not a great number to use in the first place. But here\’s how it will be abused:

Separate figures, meanwhile, have shown that almost 70,000 children will wake up on Christmas Day in temporary accommodation, without a home to call their own.

We have a number of different definitions of homeless. There\’s the one we all understand, that living rough one. People without a roof over their heads. Then at the other extreme there\’s the one used by the homlessness industry like, say, Shelter. Someone living in unsuitable accomodation without a secure tenancy.

Again an important distinction. From memory, on any one night, there are 300 to 400 people living rough in London, a city of 8 million people. According to the likes of Shelter there are hundreds of thousands of \”homeless\”.

The abuse of these numbers and definitions will start soon enough. Someone will pop up and tell us that we must have more social housing otherwise hundreds of thousands will die at 43.

One other thing:

The new study into living rough, titled \”Homelessness: A silent killer\”, found suicide rates were nine times higher among homeless people than the general population.

They also found drug and alcohol abuse accounted for more than a third of all deaths among people living rough.

Meanwhile the research found deaths as a result of traffic accidents were three times as likely, infections twice as likely and falls are more than three times as likely to result in death.

Not a great surprise. To be living rough for any great length of time these days it is pretty much necessary to be an alcoholic, drug addict or mentally ill.

And what we\’d really like to know is, what is the average age of death of these groups so that we can compare it to the age of death of those living rough? For that is what will tell us about the effect of living rough, not a comparison with the general population.

7 comments on “Another statistic that will be abused

  1. Tim

    You really are difficult. You are asking the rent-seekers and feel-gooders to go just a little deeper in their analysis.

    Their current analysis leads media-driven politicians to take bad decisions in order to look good.

    The problem is of course that if the problem identified doesn’t really exist anymore, the job/organisation is irrelevant and should be scrapped/disbanded etc. Can’t see it happening. So look forward to ever more catastrophic data which shows we are worse off than 30 years ago.

    I however have a memory and a certain age and that allows me like you to doubt and question. I don’t dig much deeper because I have you (and others) to piggy-back on.

    This of course makes us utter bast*rds. Have a happy baby-eating, tax-evading, banker-loving, social service cutting 2012 whilst you whizz round the world polluting with your Lear jet.

  2. You covered the point I was going to make: the factors that make people homeless in the first place, e.g. drug addiction probably contribute as much to an early death as sleeping rough.

  3. Hypothermia is a cause of death. Drug overdose is a cause of death. Sleeping outdoors is not.
    So all these figures are made up by homeless charities and the campaigns come round as often as holly and mistletoe.
    Maybe it’s worth pointing out that, despite the best efforts of the innkeeper, the reason the Bethlehem tourist infrastructure couldn’t cope was because the poor sods were being taxed.

  4. I wonder how they’re defining “temporary accommodation” these days.

    When Prescott was in charge of these things, it included anyone on a normal private sector (shorthold) tenancy.

    Amused me, since that’s how I live.

  5. I have lived rough for some extended periods of time – “living rough” is part and parcel of being in the infantry. I’ve spent months sleeping on the ground, often wrapped in nothing thicker than a bin liner or a few sand bags. I’ve lived in holes in the ground that were either full of dust or full of mud. I’ve been wet, cold, hungry and miserable; I’ve been hot, sweaty, thirsty and uncomfortable. I’ve eaten cold food out of a can with my fingers, and gone weeks at a time without washing more than my hands, nuts and face, and having only one change of socks and clothes. I have been stinky, filthy and feral.

    And none of it did me the least bit of harm. How many rock stars have died from overdoses or alcohol poisoning in swish hotels or flash houses?

  6. Agree wholly, except for the kids point. If you’re an adult under 70, then a bit of couch surfing, or even sleeping in the park, will do you no harm.

    But when there are young kids involved, having a completely unstable situation where your accommodation is temporary and you don’t know where you’re going to be next week does fuck them up.

    Richard: wait, are you seriously claiming NSI used assured shorthold tenancies as a measure of temporary accommodation? Got a link?

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