WXXI AM News

New study shows homeless in Monroe County live decades shorter than the average resident

Nov 19, 2017

Credit freeimages.com/michael niemis

Life expectancy is dramatically different for those in Rochester who are homeless.

That is according to research by Harry Murray, a sociology professor at Nazareth College, which shows a significant difference between men and women.

The average man in Monroe County lives to be 77, while the average homeless man lives to be 54.

For women, the average life expectancy is just over 81, but for homeless women its just 42 years old.

According to Murray, that means that the average woman in Monroe County who is not homeless lives nearly twice as long as a homeless woman.

"Homelessness is not just a matter of not having a roof over your head, it’s a matter of not expecting to live as many decades on this planet. It’s a death sentence in a very real sense."

Murray said seeing the wall of obituary newspaper cut outs at the House of Mercy inspired him to turn the memorial into data.

There are two factors, he says, that are universal among homeless people and may contribute to life expectancy rates. One is stress, which makes people more susceptible to illness. And the other is precarity, that the situation of being homeless makes you more vulnerable to accidents and violence.

His findings did not find any significant difference by race or ethnicity on average age of death.

But Murray said globally where similar studies have been done, there are only six countries with lower life expectancies than the homeless in Rochester.

"You find that countries like Somalia and Pakistan actually have higher life expectancies than the homeless folks in Rochester that we studied."

He hopes these numbers show the community and the county what is at stake.