Experiences of Discrimination Among Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness: Relationship to Mental Health Outcomes

Sarah Carter Narendorf, Ashley Palmer, Kenya Minott, Diane Santa Maria, Kimberly Bender, Jama Shelton, Kristin Ferguson, Hsun Ta Hsu, Anamika Barman-Adhikari, Robin Petering

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Scopus citations


    Young adults experiencing homelessness (YAEH) are at high risk for discrimination. Limited research has documented the extent of discrimination experiences and their relationship to mental health outcomes among this group. This study used data from YAEH who completed self-administered surveys across seven U.S. cities (N = 1,426) to examine the rates and correlates of discrimination experiences and their association with psychological distress and suicidal ideation. Chi-square and multivariate logistic regressions were used to examine the relations between perceived discrimination and race, gender identity, sexual orientation, foster care history, criminal justice history, reasons for homelessness, and length of time homeless. Then, logistic regression was used to examine whether discrimination increased the odds of psychological distress and suicidal ideation, controlling for other factors. Three-fourths (75.8%) of the sample (n = 1,055) reported experiencing at least one of the five forms of everyday discrimination experiences at least a few times a year, with the most common reason attributed to their housing situation (46%). Sexual orientation, juvenile justice involvement, and having been homeless for 2 years or more were associated with increased odds of experiencing discrimination. Discrimination was a strong predictor of psychological distress but was significant only at the bivariate level for suicidal ideation. Study results suggest that experiences of discrimination are common among YAEH and that these experiences increase risk for psychological distress. Providers working with YAEH need to validate and acknowledge the impact of these experiences on mental health. And, communities need to work to reduce discrimination experiences by targeting stigma against YAEH.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)58-67
    Number of pages10
    JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 2022


    • Discrimination
    • Homelessness
    • Mental health
    • Young adult

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Developmental and Educational Psychology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • Psychology (miscellaneous)
    • Psychiatry and Mental health


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