A new study suggests people living in single room occupancy hotels in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside experience a wide range of serious health problems.

The study, published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry, surveyed nearly 300 such tenants and discovered most suffered from substance dependence, mental illness and infectious diseases.  

Of those surveyed, 95 per cent had substance dependence and almost two-thirds were involved in injection drug use. Nearly half of the participants suffered from psychosis, and nearly half had a neurological disorder. Eighteen per cent of the residents surveyed were HIV-positive and 70 per cent had been exposed to Hepatitis C.

The death rate for people living in single room occupancy hotels is five times higher than the general population, according to the study.

Single room occupancy hotels provide affordable short-term or long-term accommodation in single rooms, typically without private bathrooms or kitchens. 

"Compared with homelessness, there has been relatively little research into the magnitude of the health problems experienced by people living in marginal housing," said William Honer, professor and head of the UBC department of psychiatry and senior author of the study.

The study was carried out by a research team which included investigators from both the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University.