Self-injurious behavior among Greek male prisoners: prevalence and risk factors

Eur Psychiatry. 2010 Apr;25(3):151-8. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2009.07.014. Epub 2009 Nov 18.


Background: Self-harm among prisoners is a common phenomenon. This study aims to estimate the prevalence of self-injurious behavior (SIB) among Greek male prisoners, record their motives and determine independent risk factors.

Methods: A self-administered, anonymous questionnaire was administered to 173 male prisoners in the Chalkida prison, Greece. The questionnaire included items on self-harm/SIB, demographic parameters, childhood history, family history, physical and mental disease, lifestyle and smoking habits, alcohol dependence (CAGE questionnaire), illicit substance use, aggression (Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire [BPAQ] and Lifetime History of Aggression [LTHA]), impulsivity (Barrat Impulsivity Scale-11) and suicidal ideation (Spectrum of Suicidal Behavior Scale). Univariate nonparametric statistics and multivariate ordinal logistic regression were performed.

Results: Of all the participants, 49.4% (95% CI: 41.5-57.3%) disclosed self-harm (direct or indirect). The prevalence of SIB was equal to 34.8% (95% CI: 27.5-42.6%). Most frequently, SIB coexisted with indirect self-harm (80.7%). The most common underlying motives were to obtain emotional release (31.6%) and to release anger (21.1%). At the univariate analysis, SIB was positively associated with a host of closely related factors: low education, physical/sexual abuse in childhood, parental neglect, parental divorce, alcoholism in family, psychiatric condition in family, recidivism, age, sentence already served, impulsivity, aggression, alcohol dependence, self-reported diagnosed psychiatric condition and illicit substance use. Childhood variables were particularly associated with the presence of diagnosed psychiatric condition. At the multivariate analysis, however, only three parameters were proven independent risk factors: self-reported diagnosed psychiatric condition, illicit substance use and aggression (BPAQ scale).

Conclusion: The prevalence of SIB is particularly high. Psychiatric condition, illicit substance use and aggression seem to be the most meaningful risk factors; childhood events seem only to act indirectly.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Greece
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Illicit Drugs