Stress, Trauma, and Illness for Women Experiencing Homelessness: The need for integrated trauma-informed care

  • Chelsea Bullard Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine (OSU-COM)
  • Kelley Sittner Oklahoma State University
Keywords: stress-process model, trauma-informed care, homeless women, victimization, chronic conditions, child abuse


Stressful and traumatic events predispose women to homelessness, but being homeless also places women at risk for experiencing traumatic events. This vicious cycle is further worsened by physical ailments. We apply the stress-process model to examine the relationship between stressful life events, victimization, and chronic physical conditions with a sample of 150 women experiencing homelessness in three U.S. cities. Correlation results indicate significant associations between the prevalence of childhood abuse, stressful life events, victimization while homeless, and the number of chronic health conditions. Regression models show significant relationships between child abuse, stressful life events and the number of chronic conditions experienced by homeless women. As stress process model research hypothesizes, primary or early traumas can reduce coping resources and make individuals more susceptible to later secondary traumas and re-victimization experiences due to inability to handle stress. By acknowledging these women as victims of traumatic and stressful lives before and during episodes of homelessness and by utilizing a trauma-informed care model during treatment, we may be able to better address their currently unmet health needs.


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