Older criminals: a descriptive study of psychiatrically examined offenders in Sweden

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2002 Oct;17(10):907-13. doi: 10.1002/gps.715.


Objective: We retrospectively examined psychiatric diagnoses of older offenders referred by court for psychiatric assessment in Sweden, and compared them with younger offenders.

Method: In Sweden, structured court-ordered forensic psychiatric evaluations are undertaken by a forensic psychiatric team. Data on age, sex, citizenship, psychiatric diagnoses, offences, and legal insanity declarations were obtained for the years 1988-2000 (n = 7297).

Results: There were 210 forensic psychiatric evaluations in those aged 60 and over. 7% had a diagnosis of dementia, 32% psychotic illness, 8% depressive or anxiety disorder, 15% substance abuse or dependence, and 20% personality disorder. Older offenders were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia or a personality disorder, and more likely to have dementia or an affective psychosis compared to younger ones. Logistic regression analyses suggested that of the studied factors, the ones most typical of older offenders were a diagnosis of dementia and being charged with a sexual offence.

Conclusion: There appear to be important differences in psychiatric morbidity between older offenders and younger ones who come into contact with forensic psychiatric services. This research may assist in the planning of forensic and therapeutic services for the increasing number of older adults passing through the criminal justice system.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Forensic Psychiatry / methods
  • Humans
  • Insanity Defense / statistics & numerical data
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sweden / epidemiology