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Forensic Sci Int. 1998 Aug 31;96(1):11-9.

The mortality of released Finnish prisoners; a 7 year follow-up study of the WATTU project.

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Oulu University Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Finland.



The aim was to compare the mortality of released prisoners and the general population.


The study forms a part of the Health Survey of Finnish Prisoners (the WATTU Project). A sample (N = 903), representing all Finnish male prisoners, underwent a thorough health survey in 1985. A 7 year follow-up study was performed by means of gathering register data (deaths, hospital care, diseases leading to working incapacity). A population-based age-selected control group was formed for comparison.


During the follow-up, 13.2% of the sample died (natural deaths 5.2%, accidental deaths 4.1%, suicides 2.0%), whereas the corresponding figure in the control group was 3.4%. Overmortality among released prisoners, when compared to the general population, was also found in different death categories.


The high somatic and psychiatric morbidity and mortality due to prisoner suicide, when imprisoned, has been reported in many earlier studies. This is probably the first study to confirm the high mortality in different death categories of a representative sample of released prisoners compared to a control group representing the general population. It is important to try to help released prisoners to get a new grip on normal life, especially if they also have somatic or mental health problems. More effort should be made to improve the collaboration between different health care systems.

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