Variation in Health Among Unstably Housed Youth From Cities, Suburbs, Towns, and Rural Areas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose: Youth face similar rates of homelessness across rural and urban areas, yet little is known about how the health of unstably housed youth varies by location. We assessed differences in health by location (city, suburb, town, and rural) and housing status among youth facing a range of unstable housing experiences. Methods: This secondary data analysis from 8th, 9th, and 11th graders completing the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey examined youth who had experienced housing instability in the prior year (n = 10,757), including running away (48%) or experiencing homelessness (staying in shelter, couch-surfing, or rough sleeping) with (42%) or without (10%) an adult family member. We conducted multifactor analysis of variance to assess differences by location (urban, suburban, town, and rural) and housing experience for each of five health indicators: suboptimal health, depressive symptoms, suicide attempts, ≥2 sexual partners, and e-cigarette use. Results: In main effects models, all health indicators varied based on housing status; suboptimal health, ≥2 sexual partners, and e-cigarette use also varied by location. Interaction models showed that unaccompanied homeless youth in suburbs reported poorer health compared with those in cities. Compared with suburbs, youth in towns were more likely to report ≥2 sexual partners (19.9%, 24.1%) and e-cigarette use (39.5%, 43.3%). Conclusions: Our findings suggest that unstably housed youth face a similar burden of poor health across locations, with only subtle differences in health indicators, yet most research focuses on urban youth. Future research is needed to identify how to best meet the health needs of unstably housed youth across locations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-139
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work supported through the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health Training Program, funded through the Maternal Child Health Bureau ( #T71MC00006 ; Principal Investigator: Sieving), and through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( #U48 DP000063 ; Principal Investigators: Sieving/A.-L.M.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine


  • Adolescent health
  • Health disparities
  • Homeless youth
  • Rural health
  • Urban health

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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