Unstable Housing and Mortality Among US Veterans Receiving Dialysis

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

JAMA network open

MeSH Headings

Male; Humans; Aged; Middle Aged; Female; Renal Dialysis; Cohort Studies; Housing; Retrospective Studies; Veterans; Radiopharmaceuticals


IMPORTANCE: Housing status is an important health determinant, yet little is known about unstable housing among individuals receiving dialysis. OBJECTIVE: To determine factors associated with unstable housing among US veterans receiving dialysis and to estimate the association of unstable housing with risk of death. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This retrospective cohort study used data from the US Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the US Renal Data System for patients who initiated dialysis between October 1, 2012, and December 31, 2018. Veterans were included if they used VHA outpatient services and completed 1 or more unstable housing screenings within a 3-year period before starting dialysis. Data analysis was conducted from January 24 to June 16, 2023. EXPOSURES: Unstable housing was defined as self-report of not having stable housing within the past 2 months or having concerns about stable housing in the next 2 months. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The main outcome was all-cause mortality. Characteristics associated with unstable housing at the time of dialysis initiation were examined. The multivariate Fine and Gray cumulative incidence model was used, treating transplant as a competing risk and age as an effect modifier, to examine the risk of death associated with unstable housing. RESULTS: This study included 25 689 veterans, with a median age of 68 (IQR, 62-74) years. Most participants were men (98%), and more than half (52%) were White. There were 771 veterans (3%) with a positive screen for unstable housing within a 3-year period before starting dialysis. Compared with veterans with stable housing, those with unstable housing were younger (mean [SD] age, 61 [8] vs 68 [10] years), were more likely to be Black (45% vs 32%) or Hispanic (9% vs 7%), and were more likely to start dialysis with a central venous catheter (77% vs 66%), receive in-center hemodialysis (96% vs 91%), and have non-Medicare insurance (53% vs 28%). Factors associated with unstable housing included Hispanic ethnicity, non-arteriovenous fistula vascular access, lack of predialysis nephrology care, and non-Medicare insurance. Veterans with unstable housing had higher all-cause mortality (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR], 1.20 [95% CI, 1.04 to 1.37] for a median age of 68 years), and risks increased with age (P = .01 for interaction). In age-stratified analyses, unstable housing was associated with higher mortality among veterans aged 75 to 85 years (AHR, 1.64 [95% CI, 1.18 to 2.28]), but associations were not observed for other age groups. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this cohort study of veterans receiving dialysis, unstable housing experienced before starting dialysis was associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality, and risks increased with age. Further efforts are needed to understand the experiences of older adults with unstable housing and to estimate the scope of unstable housing among all individuals receiving dialysis.

First Page