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Cold-related injuries among patients experiencing homelessness in Toronto: a descriptive analysis of emergency department visits


Purpose — Homelessness increases the risk of cold-related injuries. We examined emergency department visits for cold-related injuries in Toronto over a 4-year period, comparing visits for patients identified as homeless to visits for patients not identified as homeless.

Methods — This descriptive analysis of visits to emergency departments in Toronto between July 2018 and June 2022 used linked health administrative data. We measured emergency department visits with cold-related injury diagnoses among patients experiencing homelessness and those not identified as homeless. Rates were expressed as a number of visits for cold-related injury per 100,000 visits overall. Rate ratios were used to compare rates between homeless vs. not homeless groups.

Results — We identified 333 visits for cold-related injuries among patients experiencing homelessness and 1126 visits among non-homeless patients. In each of the 4 years of observation, rate ratios ranged between 13.6 and 17.6 for cold-related injuries overall, 13.7 and 17.8 for hypothermia, and 10.3 and 18.3 for frostbite. Rates per 100,000 visits in the fourth year (July 2021 to June 2022) were significantly higher than in the pre-pandemic period. Male patients had higher rates, regardless of homelessness status; female patients experiencing homelessness had higher rate ratios than male patients experiencing homelessness.

Conclusion — Patients experiencing homelessness visiting the emergency department are much more likely to be seen for cold-related injuries than non-homeless patients. Additional efforts are needed to prevent cold-related exposure and consequent injury among people experiencing homelessness.



Richard L, Golding H, Saskin R, Jenkensen JI, Pridham KF, Gogosis E, Snider C, Hwang SW. Can J Emerg Med. 2023; Jul 5 [Epub ahead of print].

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