The hidden cost of schizophrenia

January 28, 2010

People being treated for schizophrenia are more likely than the general population to have encounters with the criminal justice system in the US. A study published in the open access journal BMC Psychiatry has shown that schizophrenia patients' involvement with the criminal justice system is primarily driven by their being victims of crime and that the average annual per-patient cost of involvement with the criminal justice system was $1429.

Haya Ascher-Svanum led a team of researchers from Eli Lilly and Company, USA, who used data from a study of around 600 people with to estimate the prevalence and cost of involvement with the criminal justice system.

They found that 46% had had at least one encounter, and these patients were more likely to be younger, with poorer mental health, and less likely to adhere to their medication regime. Being a crime victim was the most prevalent type of encounter, comprising 67% of these patients.

The team also estimated, for the first time, the direct economic impact of legal involvement. According to Ascher-Svanum, "These encounters may comprise approximately 6% to 11% of the annual per-patient direct total costs. When assessing the costs of schizophrenia, future studies should account for potential involvement whenever possible".

More information: Involvement in the US criminal justice system and cost implications for persons treated for schizophrenia, Haya Ascher-Svanum, Allen W. Nyhuis, Douglas E. Faries, Daniel E. Ball and Bruce J. Kinon, BMC Psychiatry (in press), www.biomedcentral.com/bmcpsychiatry/

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