Gender differences in chronic medical, psychiatric, and substance-dependence disorders among jail inmates

Am J Public Health. 2010 Mar;100(3):476-82. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.149591. Epub 2009 Aug 20.


Objectives: We investigated whether there were gender differences in chronic medical, psychiatric, and substance-dependence disorders among jail inmates and whether substance dependence mediated any gender differences found.

Methods: We analyzed data from a nationally representative survey of 6982 US jail inmates. Weighted estimates of disease prevalence were calculated by gender for chronic medical disorders (cancer, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, hepatitis, and cirrhosis), psychiatric disorders (depressive, bipolar, psychotic, posttraumatic stress, anxiety, and personality), and substance-dependence disorders. We conducted logistic regression to examine the relationship between gender and these disorders.

Results: Compared with men, women had a significantly higher prevalence of all medical and psychiatric conditions (P < or = .01 for each) and drug dependence (P < .001), but women had a lower prevalence of alcohol dependence (P < .001). Gender differences persisted after adjustment for sociodemographic factors and substance dependence.

Conclusions: Women in jail had a higher burden of chronic medical disorders, psychiatric disorders, and drug dependence than men, including conditions found more commonly in men in the general population. Thus, there is a need for targeted attention to the chronic medical, psychiatric, and drug-treatment needs of women at risk for incarceration, both in jail and after release.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / education
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Women's Health*