Study examines link between incarceration and psychiatric disorders

January 16, 2013

Psychiatric disorders are prevalent among current and former inmates of correctional institutions, but what has been less clear is whether incarceration causes these disorders or, alternatively, whether inmates have these problems before they enter prison. A study co-authored by Jason Schnittker, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, shows that many of the most common psychiatric disorders found among former inmates, including impulse control disorders, emerge in childhood and adolescence and, therefore, predate incarceration. Yet, incarceration seems to lead to some mood related psychiatric disorders, such as major depression, which have important implications for what happens to inmates after their release.

Michael Massoglia, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Christopher Uggen, a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, co-authored the study, "Out and Down: Incarceration and Psychiatric Disorders," which appears in the current issue of the .

Using data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, which took place between 2001 and 2003, the researchers examined the relationship between incarceration and psychiatric disorders after statistically adjusting for influences that might affect both, including an impoverished childhood background.

Their results reveal robust and long-lasting relationships between incarceration and that adversely affect one's mood, such as .

"These conditions, in turn, are strongly related to other impairments, including a diminished capacity to form and to focus on daily activities including work," said Schnittker. "Although often neglected as a consequence of incarceration, mood related conditions might explain some of the difficulties former inmates experience following release."

In the study's conclusion, the researchers suggest that mental health treatment could help former inmates reintegrate into society and they encourage efforts to facilitate this. "Even though many former want to get back on their feet after release, they experience numerous difficulties in doing so, some legal, some social, and some personal," Schnittker said. "Being depressed probably makes all of these obstacles even more difficult to overcome. Reentry requires motivation, and depression can rob you of that."

Schnittker's research interests are in medical sociology, focusing on mental health, physical health, and the relationship between the two. His current research on the effects of incarceration on the health of individuals, families, and communities is funded in part by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy.

Explore further: Physicians call for new approach to address national 'epidemic of mass incarceration'

Related Stories

Physicians call for new approach to address national 'epidemic of mass incarceration'

June 1, 2011
With 2.3 million people behind bars and an estimated 10 million Americans cycling in and out of correctional facilities each year, the United States is in the midst of an "epidemic of mass incarceration," say researchers ...

Prison education programs reduce inmate prison return rate, study shows

October 4, 2011
According to the Pew Center on the States, one in one hundred American adults is currently in prison. U.S. Department of Justice statistics show that 67 percent of those inmates will recidivate, or re-offend and return to ...

Systematic incarceration of African American males is a wrong, costly path

November 11, 2012
Mental health experts from Meharry Medical College School of Medicine have released the first comprehensive report on the correlation between the incarceration of African American males and substance abuse and other health ...

Recommended for you

Schizophrenia drug development may be 'de-risked' with new research tool

November 22, 2017
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) have identified biomarkers that can aid in the development of better treatments for schizophrenia.

Study finds infection and schizophrenia symptom link

November 22, 2017
If a mother's immune system is activated by infection during pregnancy, it could result in critical cognitive deficits linked to schizophrenia in her offspring, a University of Otago study has revealed.

Self-harm, suicide attempts climb among US girls, study says

November 21, 2017
Attempted suicides, drug overdoses, cutting and other types of self-injury have increased substantially in U.S. girls, a 15-year study of emergency room visits found.

Car, stroller, juice: Babies understand when words are related

November 20, 2017
The meaning behind infants' screeches, squeals and wails may frustrate and confound sleep-deprived new parents. But at an age when babies cannot yet speak to us in words, they are already avid students of language.

Simple EKG can determine whether patient has depression or bipolar disorder

November 20, 2017
A groundbreaking Loyola Medicine study suggests that a simple 15-minute electrocardiogram could help a physician determine whether a patient has major depression or bipolar disorder.

Non-fearful social withdrawal linked positively to creativity

November 20, 2017
Everyone needs an occasional break from the social ramble, though spending too much time alone can be unhealthy and there is growing evidence that the psychosocial effects of too much solitude can last a lifetime.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.