Severe mental illness and criminal victimization: a systematic review

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2009 Mar;119(3):180-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2008.01300.x. Epub 2008 Nov 10.


Objective: To estimate the prevalence of criminal victimization among people with severe mental illness and to explore risk factors.

Method: Four databases (MEDLINE, ScienceDirect, ERIC, and AMED) were searched for articles published between January 1966 and August 2007, supplemented with hand-search of reference lists from retrieved papers. The author and a Medical Doctor independently abstracted data and assessed study quality. Disagreements were resolved by consensus after review of the article and the review protocol.

Results: Nine studies, including 5195 patients, were identified. Prevalence estimates of criminal victimization ranged from 4.3% to 35.04%. Rates of victimization among severely mentally ill persons were 2.3-140.4 times higher than those in the general population. Criminal victimization was most frequently associated with alcohol and/or illicit drug use/abuse, homelessness, more severe symptomatology, and engagement in criminal activity.

Conclusion: Prevention and intervention programs should target high-risk groups and improve patients' mental health and quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Crime / prevention & control
  • Crime / psychology
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data*
  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Homeless Persons / psychology
  • Homeless Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Psychotic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology