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Crim Behav Ment Health. 2011 Dec;21(5):321-32. doi: 10.1002/cbm.815. Epub 2011 Jun 26.

The prevalence of mental disorders in Spanish prisons.

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Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Déu, Sant Boi de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain.



The prevalence of mental disorders among prisoners has been researched in a few countries worldwide but never previously in Spain.


Our aim was to estimate the lifetime and last month prevalence of mental disorders in a Spanish prison population.


This is a descriptive, cross-sectional, epidemiological study of 707 male prisoners. Sociodemographic, clinical and offending data were collected by interviewers. Offending data were confirmed using penitentiary records. Mental disorders were assessed with the clinical version of the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition Axis I Disorders, and personality disorders were assessed through the Spanish version of the International Personality Disorders Examination.


The lifetime prevalence of mental disorder was 84.4%. Substance use disorder (abuse and dependence) was the most frequent disorder (76.2%) followed by anxiety disorder (45.3%), mood disorder (41%) and psychotic disorder (10.7%). The period (last month) prevalence of any mental disorder was 41.2%. Anxiety disorder was the most prevalent (23.3%) followed by substance use disorder (abuse and dependence; 17.5%), mood disorder (14.9%) and psychotic disorder (4.2%).


Although period prevalence figures, which are those generally provided in research into rates of mental disorder among prisoners, are useful for planning improvements to services within prisons, the fact that almost all of these men had a lifetime prevalence of at least one mental disorder suggests a much wider need for improving services, including community services, for this group.

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