Mentally Ill Adults Suffer High Rates of Crime Victimization

Article excerpt

More than one-quarter of Chicago-area adults with serious mental illness had been the victims of crime over the past year, according to a study by Linda A. Teplin, Ph.D., and her colleagues at Northwestern University, Chicago.

This rate is more than 11 times higher than that found in the general population--even after controlling for demographic differences, the researchers said (Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 2005;62:911-21).

Compared with the general population, adults with serious mental illness (SMI) were 140.4 times more likely to suffer a personal theft during the past year, 17 times more likely to suffer a rape or sexual assault, and 15 times more likely to be the victim of assault.

The study involved interviews with a probability sample of 936 adults with SMI from 16 randomly selected agencies that provided outpatient, day, and residential treatment. All subjects met criteria for psychosis or major affective disorder. The investigators used measurement instruments identical to those used by the annual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice.

For purposes of comparison, inner-city NCVS data for 1997-1999, the same time period as the SMI interviews, were corrected for race, ethnicity, sex, age, and income. This was done because adults with SMI are more likely than the general population to be poor, and poverty is strongly correlated with victimization.

Among people with SMI, there were 168.2 incidents of violent crime per 1,000 persons per year, 4.2 times higher than the rate of 39.9 incidents per 1,000 persons per year among the general population.

The incidence of rape or sexual assault among people with SMI was 8.39/1,000 persons per year, 12.3 times as high as the general population. Personal theft (theft of property from a person) was 142.6/1,000 persons per year, 59.7 times as high as the general population.

People with SMI also had significantly higher rates of most property crimes with two exceptions: There was no significant difference in rates of motor vehicle theft, and they had a significantly lower rate of attempted property theft. …