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Victoria Cramer

The prevalence of mental disorders among convicted inmates in Norwegian prisons

Oslo. 2014-2 | 2016

Sammendrag

This report presents the results of a survey of the prevalence of mental disorders among convicted inmates in Norwegian prisons. Never before has such an extensive survey been carried out in this field in Norway. A nationwide representative sample of prison inmates were studied during the period 2011–2013. Inmates who were on remand, in police custody or waiting to serve their sentence were not included in the survey. Comprehensive and structured diagnostic interviews were conducted of a total of 857 convicted women and men in order to map the prevalence of selected mental disorders. Although the survey used internationally recognised diagnostic assessment instruments, there is reason to underline that an interview cannot replace a thorough medical and psychiatric examination. This means that the diagnoses described in this report are not clinical diagnoses of a medical condition, but must be regarded as qualified estimates of the prevalence of mental disorders in the study sample. The diagnoses were split between diagnoses of a current condition at the time of the interview and diagnoses of a previous condition, known as lifetime prevalence.

The results of the survey were compared with the prevalence of mental disorders among inmates in other countries and with the prevalence of mental disorders in the general Norwegian population. We found that the prevalence of mental disorders among convicted inmates in Norwegian prisons is considerably higher than in the general population, and consistent with findings in corresponding surveys conducted abroad. We also found that it is not uncommon to have more than one mental disorder at the same time. We found that 8% of the inmates had no signs of mental disorders, while 73% had a personality disorder, 28.7% had experience of alcohol abuse or addiction, and 51.3% had experience of drug abuse or addiction, while 35% of the respondents had no experience of alcohol abuse/addiction or drug abuse/addiction, 42% had an anxiety disorder, 23% had a mood disorder, 18% had ADHD and 3.3% had at some point experienced symptoms consistent with non-affective psychosis. One or more suicide risk factors were found in 12% of the respondents. We found no significant gender differences in the prevalence of mental disorders among the inmates.