Veterans, Homeless, Students Share Higher COVID-19 Rates

covid19, homeless
This study looked at psychosocial and mental health characteristics associated with COVID-19 infection.

Researchers found no association between mental health conditions and testing positive for COVID-19. However, a person’s living and social environments do play roles according to a study published in Psychiatric Services.

The researchers recruited a sample of 6,607 adults in May and June 2020. Participants were at least 22 years old, lived in the United States and had an annual personal gross income of $75,000 or less. Information came from self-reports.

Military veterans and individuals with a history of homelessness were more than twice as likely to test positive for COVID-19 than non-veterans or those who were stably housed. Individuals with a greater number of close friends and relatives, those who had experienced a greater sense of loneliness, or who had greater social support also had higher rates of COVID-19. The COVID-19-positive group also reported a greater number of medical conditions and psychiatric disorders.

Limitations include that this study utilized a cross-sectional survey and the fact that information obtained was based on self-reports. Researchers did not ask about COVID-19 symptoms, which raises questions about asymptomatic participants.

“In order of magnitude, having any friends or family who were COVID-19+, being a veteran, having several close friends or relatives, having any history of homelessness, having an advanced degree, being a student, and being younger were each statistically significantly associated with COVID-19+ status,” the researchers found. “These findings reinforce the importance of social distancing and highlight several population subgroups that may be at increased risk for contracting the virus.”


Tsai J, Huang M, Elbogen E. Mental health and psychosocial characteristics associated with COVID-19 among U.S. adults. Psychiatr Serv. 2021 Feb 3:appips202000540. doi: 10.1176/