One in 20 adults in Scotland experiences ‘extreme disadvantage’ such as homelessness, drug dependency or involvement in the criminal justice system each year, according to a study.

Lead author of the Hard Edges Scotland study, Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, said the lives of many Scots are characterised by stress, misery, violence and trauma.

Research carried out at Heriot-Watt University, found that almost 200,000 adults in Scotland experience at least one form of extreme disadvantage.

Professor Fitzpatrick, director of the university’s Institute for Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research said: “Many of the people directly affected are living miserable and stressful lives, constantly in ‘survival mode’, because violence, trauma and threats play such a pervasive role in their everyday experiences.

“Having no physical or psychological ‘safe space’ takes a terrible toll on people’s well-being and quality of life and addressing this distressing reality must be core to policy and service responses.”

When additional disadvantages such as mental ill-health and domestic violence are considered, the numbers affected more than double to nearly 450,000 people each year, researchers say. The study examines the challenges facing charities and the public sector, and says while many people face multiple problems, services are often set up to address single issues.

It also warns that prisons and the courts are picking up the pieces after people in need of help are let down by other services. Rsearchers found numerous examples of people using the criminal justice service as a “safety net” and committing offences or seeking prison sentences to gain access to support and “safe places”.

The report was commissioned by Lankelly Chase and The Robertson Trust. lice Evans, deputy chief executive of Lankelly Chase, said: “These findings tell the story of life as it is now for people facing extreme disadvantage across Scotland. Hard Edges Scotland asks us all to question the role we’re playing in allowing this to continue. Te response required is bigger than any one individual or organisation..”

Lankelly Chase is making £80,000 available to communities and organisations across Scotland to encourage new conversations about severe and multiple disadvantage and is offering grants of up to £3,000 from that fund to facilitate new discussions.

The report looked at three “core” forms of severe and multiple disadvantage – homelessness, offending and substance dependency. Researchers found that 156,700 people experience at least one, 28,800 two and 5,700 adults experience all three.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We’re taking action to address the underlying causes such as tackling poverty, delivering fair wages, supporting families, and improving the provision of alcohol and drug treatment services.”