Characteristics of violent behaviour in acute psychiatric in-patients: a 5-year Italian study

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2001 Oct;104(4):273-9. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0447.2001.00292.x.


Objective: In order to examine prospectively the characteristics of violence among psychiatric patients, a 5-year study was carried out in an acute psychiatric unit.

Method: All assaultive behaviour occurred in the ward during the study period were assessed routinely using the Staff Observation Aggression scale (SOAS).

Results: Of 1534 patients admitted to the unit during the study period, 116 were responsible for 329 aggressive episodes (prevalence of violence=7.5%, 2.8 incidents/patient). Most violent patients had an ICD-9 diagnosis of schizophrenia and/or delusional syndromes (55.1%), a history of violence (80.7%) and previous psychiatric admissions (92%). Approximately half of the incidents had no specific cause, occurred during daytime and the first week of admission and, in most cases, were directed towards individuals (77.8%).

Conclusion: Although confirming the low rate of violence among Italian psychiatric in-patients, the study indicates the need for more attention to the problem of aggression in general hospital psychiatric units.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Delusions / diagnosis
  • Delusions / epidemiology*
  • Delusions / psychology
  • Female
  • Hospitals, General / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology
  • Inpatients / statistics & numerical data*
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Department, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Violence / psychology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*