Researchers ID risk factors that predict violence in adults with mental illness

March 1, 2016

Researchers have identified three risk factors that make adults with mental illness more likely to engage in violent behavior. The findings give mental health professionals and others working with adults with mental illness a suite of characteristics they can use as potential warning signs, allowing them to intervene and hopefully prevent violent behavior.

"Our earlier work found that adults with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators - and that is especially relevant to this new study," says Sarah Desmarais, an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-author of a paper describing the work. "One of the new findings is that people with mental illness who have been victims of violence in the past six months are more likely to engage in future violent behavior themselves."

The researchers compiled a database of 4,480 adults with - including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression - who had answered questions about both committing violence and being victims of violence in the previous six months. The database drew from five earlier studies that focused on issues ranging from to treatment approaches. Those studies had different research goals, but all asked identical questions related to violence and victimization.

The researchers assessed the data to determine which behaviors, events and characteristics were most predictive of violent behavior over a six-month period. Violent behavior, in this context, ranged from pushing and shoving to sexual assault and assault with a deadly weapon.

The researchers found three risk factors that were predictive of violent behavior: if an individual is currently using alcohol; if an individual has engaged in violent behavior over the past six months; and if an individual has been a victim of violence within the past six months.

"We found that these risk factors were predictive even when we accounted for age, sex, race, mental illness diagnosis and other clinical characteristics," Desmarais says.

In contrast, the researchers found that current drug use was not predictive of , when age, sex, race, mental illness diagnosis and other clinical characteristics were considered.

"This is useful information for anyone working in a clinical setting," Desmarais says. "But it also highlights the importance of creating policies that can help protect people with mental illness from being victimized. It's not only the right thing to do, but it makes for safer communities."

Explore further: Study shows mentally ill more likely to be victims, not perpetrators, of violence

More information: Kiersten L. Johnson et al. Proximal Risk Factors for Short-Term Community Violence Among Adults With Mental Illnesses, Psychiatric Services (2016). DOI: 10.1176/appi.ps.201500259

Related Stories

Study shows mentally ill more likely to be victims, not perpetrators, of violence

February 25, 2014
New research shows that almost one-third of adults with mental illness are likely to be victims of violence within a six-month period, and that adults with mental illness who commit violence are most likely to do so in residential ...

Psychosis rarely linked to violent crime, study says

June 12, 2015
(HealthDay)—It's rare that people with mental illness have hallucinations and delusions before they commit violent crimes, researchers say.

Mental disorders don't predict future violence

April 24, 2015
Most psychiatric disorders - including depression—do not predict future violent behavior, according to new Northwestern Medicine longitudinal study of delinquent youth. The only exception is substance abuse and dependence.

Mental health patients more than twice as likely to be victims of homicide than the general public

June 18, 2014
Patients with mental illness are two and a half times more likely to be victims of homicide than people in the general population, according to a national study examining the characteristics of homicide victims across England ...

Psychiatric assessments for predicting violence are ineffective

November 12, 2015
In a study published in PLOS One the team have proposed an entirely new approach to risk assessment for future violence. Previous approaches have relied on looking at risk factors that happen to be linked to, but may not ...

Recommended for you

Self-control may not diminish throughout the day

September 20, 2017
Our self-control may not be a finite resource that diminishes throughout the day, but we may still experience fatigue while persisting in a single task, according to a study published September 20, 2017 in the open-access ...

Researchers develop new tool to assess individual's level of wisdom

September 20, 2017
Researchers at University of San Diego School of Medicine have developed a new tool called the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE) to assess an individual's level of wisdom, based upon a conceptualization of wisdom as a trait ...

Alcohol use affects levels of cholesterol regulator through epigenetics

September 20, 2017
In an analysis of the epigenomes of people and mice, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institutes of Health report that drinking alcohol may induce changes to a cholesterol-regulating gene.

Oxytocin turns up the volume of your social environment

September 20, 2017
Before you shop for the "cuddle" hormone oxytocin to relieve stress and enhance your social life, read this: a new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that sometimes, blocking the action of oxytocin in ...

One in four girls is depressed at age 14, new study reveals

September 20, 2017
New research shows a quarter of girls (24%) and one in 10 boys (9%) are depressed at age 14.

Tablets can teach kids to solve physical puzzles

September 20, 2017
Researchers confirm that when 4-6 year old children learn how to solve a puzzle using a touchscreen tablet, they can then apply this learning to the same puzzle in the physical world. This contradicts most previous research ...

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.