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People living in precarious housing or homelessness have higher than expected rates of psychotic disorders, persistent psychotic symptoms, and premature mortality. Psychotic symptoms can be modeled as a complex dynamic system, allowing assessment of roles for risk factors in symptom development, persistence, and contribution to premature mortality.
The severity of delusions, conceptual disorganization, hallucinations, suspiciousness, and unusual thought content was rated monthly over 5 years in a community sample of precariously housed/homeless adults (n = 375) in Vancouver, Canada. Multilevel vector auto-regression analysis was used to construct temporal, contemporaneous, and between-person symptom networks. Network measures were compared between participants with (n = 219) or without (n = 156) history of psychotic disorder using bootstrap and permutation analyses. Relationships between network connectivity and risk factors including homelessness, trauma, and substance dependence were estimated by multiple linear regression. The contribution of network measures to premature mortality was estimated by Cox proportional hazard models.
Delusions and unusual thought content were central symptoms in the multilevel network. Each psychotic symptom was positively reinforcing over time, an effect most pronounced in participants with a history of psychotic disorder. Global connectivity was similar between those with and without such a history. Greater connectivity between symptoms was associated with methamphetamine dependence and past trauma exposure. Auto-regressive connectivity was associated with premature mortality in participants under age 55.
Past and current experiences contribute to the severity and dynamic relationships between psychotic symptoms. Interrupting the self-perpetuating severity of psychotic symptoms in a vulnerable group of people could contribute to reducing premature mortality.
Homeless and precariously housed individuals experience a high burden of comorbid illnesses, and excess mortality. Cross-sectional studies report a high rate of cognitive impairment. Long-term trajectories have not been well investigated in this group.
To longitudinally assess risks for premature and/or accelerated cognitive ageing, and the relationship with early mortality in homeless and precariously housed people.
This is a 9-year community-based study of 375 homeless and precariously housed individuals from Vancouver, Canada. Annual cognitive testing assessed verbal learning and memory, and inhibitory control. Linear mixed-effects models examined associations between clinical risk factors (traumatic brain injury, psychotic disorders, viral exposure, alcohol dependence) and cognitive change over 9 years. Cox regression models examined the association between cognition and mortality.
Traumatic brain injury and alcohol dependence were associated with decline in verbal memory. Inhibitory control declined, independent of risk factors and to a greater extent in those who died during the study. Better inhibitory control was associated with a 6.6% lower risk of mortality at study entry, with a 0.3% greater effect for each year of life. For each one-point increase in the Charlson Comorbidity Index score at study entry, the risk of mortality was 9.9% higher, and was consistent across age. Adjusting for comorbidities, inhibitory control remained a significant predictor of mortality.
Findings raise the possibility of a premature onset, and accelerated trajectory, of cognitive ageing in this group of homeless and precariously housed people. Traumatic brain injury, alcohol dependence and cognition could be treatment priorities.
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