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East Afr Med J. 1998 Jan;75(1):19-26.

Prevalence of psychiatric morbidity among convicted inmates in a Nigerian prison community.

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Psychiatric Hospital, Uselu, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria.


Studies of psychiatric morbidity in Nigerian prisons have not involved assessment for specific psychiatric disorders. The general aim of this study was to highlight the prevalence of psychiatric morbidity among convicted inmates at a medium security prison in Nigeria. In a one month period in 1996, 100 inmates (93% males, mean age, 31.4 years) of the prison in Benin City, were assessed, using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-30) and the Psychiatric Assessment Schedule (PAS). The 34 subjects who scored upto GHQ-30 cut-off, four, had specific axis I DSM III-R diagnoses, including, schizophrenia in two, major depression in two in recurrent mild depression in twenty one, generalised anxiety disorder in eight and somatisation disorder in one. On axis II, six subjects had antisocial personality disorder while another subject had probable mild mental retardation. On Axis III, 15 subjects had chronic physical illnesses, including one with epilepsy. Twenty five inmates had past histories of drug abuse prior to imprisonment, including cannabis (11%) and alcohol (13%). Total PAS scores were significantly predicted only by GHQ scores and length of stay in prison. There was no association between offence committed and psychiatric morbidity. Most subjects with psychiatric morbidity developed these illnesses while in prison. The findings differed from the situation in developed countries where personality disorders and substance use are much more prevalent. The fairly high level of psychiatric disorders underscores the need to improve medical services in the prison.

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