Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Incarcerated Women Experience Mental Decline

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Incarcerated Women Experience Mental Decline

Article excerpt

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. -- Women who are incarcerated have more substance dependence problems and mental illnesses than their male counterparts, and their health appears to deteriorate more rapidly than that of nonincarcerated women, Catherine Lewis, M.D., said at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

Although women make up a small fraction of the more than 2 million incarcerated people in the United States, they also represent the fastest-growing group, said Dr. Lewis of the University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington.

Incarcerated women are likely to be never married with children, to have experienced a family breakdown, and to have economic hardships, she said. About half have a high school education.

In general, incarcerated women are far more likely than incarcerated men to have psychiatric disorders and substance abuse problems, and to use psychiatric services while incarcerated, Dr. Lewis said. "Psychopathology [in these women] is generally higher in non-Hispanic whites," she added. "Minorities may not be reporting mental illnesses, or they may not have them."

Dr. Lewis and her colleagues studied 130 women who had been incarcerated for at least 2 weeks at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Conn. The women, whose average age was 33, had sentences of at least 2 years.

Forty-six percent of subjects were white, 40% were black, 13% were Hispanic, and the remaining 1% were of other races. The women averaged two children each and had about 11 years of education. The average annual income was less than $20,000, although 15% of respondents had incomes in the $100,000 range.

The researchers administered a series of tests, including the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism, the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV, the SF-36 survey, the HIV high-risk behavior survey, and the Wide Range Achievement Test to assess reading ability. …

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