Unstable Housing and Diabetes-Related Emergency Department Visits and Hospitalization: A Nationally Representative Study of Safety-Net Clinic Patients


Homelessness is associated with worse diabetes outcomes, but the relationship between other forms of unstable housing and diabetes is not well studied. We assessed whether unstable housing was associated with increased risk for diabetes-related emergency department use or hospitalization.


We used data from the 2014 Health Center Patient Survey (HCPS), a cross-sectional, nationally representative survey of patients who receive care at federally funded safety-net health centers. We included nonhomeless adults (aged ≥18 years) with self-reported diabetes. Unstable housing was defined as not having enough money to pay rent or mortgage, moving two or more times in the past 12 months, or staying at a place one does not own or rent. The primary outcome was self-report of diabetes-related emergency department visit or inpatient hospitalization in the last 12 months. We also examined use of housing assistance.


Of 1,087 participants, representing 3,277,165 adults with diabetes, 37% were unstably housed. Overall, 13.7% of participants reported a diabetes-related emergency department visit or hospitalization in the past year. In logistic regression analyses adjusted for multiple potential confounders, unstable housing was associated with greater odds of diabetes-related emergency department use or hospitalization (adjusted odds ratio 5.17 [95% CI 2.08–12.87]). Only 0.9% of unstably housed individuals reported receiving help with housing through their clinic.


Unstable housing is common and associated with increased risk of diabetes-related emergency department and inpatient use. Addressing unstable housing in clinical settings may help improve health care utilization for vulnerable individuals with diabetes.

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