Eviction, post-traumatic stress, and emergency department use among low-income individuals in New Haven, CT

Patrick D. Smith, Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health
Allison K. Groves, Department of Community Health and Prevention, Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University
Brent Langellier, Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University
Danya E. Keene, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Yale School of Public Health
Alana Rosenberg, Yale School of Public Health
Kim M. Blankenship, Department of Sociology, American University


We sought to examine whether and how landlord-related forced moves (inclusive of, but not limited to, legal eviction) were associated with emergency department (ED) use over time.

We used survey data collected between 2017 and 2019 among 283 low-income participants in New Haven, CT to examine whether experiencing a legal eviction or other landlord-related forced move (T 0 ) was associated with increased odds of ED use 6 months (T 1 ) and 12 months (T 2 ) later. We conducted bootstrapped mediation analyses to examine indirect effects of post-traumatic stress symptoms.

One-fifth of participants (n = 61) reported a recent forced move at baseline (T 0 ); half of these were legally evicted. Landlord-related forced moves were associated with ED use at T 1 (AOR = 2.06, 95 % CI: 1.04–4.06) and T 2 (AOR = 3.05, 95 % CI: 1.59–5.88). After adjustment for sociodemographic factors and other health-related confounders, legal eviction was not significantly associated with ED use at T 1 (AOR = 1.61, 95 % CI: 0.68–3.81), but was significantly associated with ED use at T 2 (AOR = 3.58, 95 % CI: 1.58–8.10). Post-traumatic stress symptoms accounted for 15.1% of forced moves’ association with ED use (p <.05).

Landlord-related forced moves are positively associated with subsequent ED use, and post-traumatic stress symptoms are one factor that may help explain this association. Structural interventions that promote housing stability are needed to advance health equity, and they may also help to reduce preventable ED use. Such interventions are imperative in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has strained health system capacity and exacerbated housing instability for many low-income renters. Results underscore the relevance of trauma-informed care and integrated care management to clinical practice in emergency settings.