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

Kids learn moral lessons more effectively from stories with humans than human-like animals

August 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto found that four to six-year-olds shared more after listening to books with human characters than books with anthropomorphic ...

History of stress increases miscarriage risk, says new review

August 17, 2017
A history of exposure to psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by upto 42 per cent, according to a new review.

Should I stay or should I leave? Untangling what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

August 17, 2017
Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.

Study finds children pay close attention to potentially threatening information, avoid eye contact when anxious

August 17, 2017
We spend a lot of time looking at the eyes of others for social cues – it helps us understand a person's emotions, and make decisions about how to respond to them. We also know that adults avoid eye contact when anxious. ...

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

Precision medicine opens the door to scientific wellness preventive approaches to suicide

August 15, 2017
Researchers have developed a more precise way of diagnosing suicide risk, by developing blood tests that work in everybody, as well as more personalized blood tests for different subtypes of suicidality that they have newly ...

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.