Mortality of Firesetters: A Follow-Up Study of Finnish Male Firesetters Who Underwent a Pretrial Forensic Examination in 1973-1998

Psychiatry Res. 2015 Feb 28;225(3):638-42. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2014.11.032. Epub 2014 Dec 3.


Little is known about mortality among firesetters. However, they hold many risk factors associated with elevated mortality. This study aimed to investigate mortality rates and patterns in the course of a 39-year follow-up of a consecutive sample (n=441) of pretrial male firesetters evaluated in a forensic psychiatric unit in Finland. For each firesetter, four controls matched for age, sex and place of birth were randomly selected from the Central Population Register. Mortality data was obtained from the Causes of Death statistics. By the end of the follow-up period, 48.0% of the firesetters and 22.0% of the controls had died (OR 2.47, 95% CI 2.00-3.05). Altogether, 24.1% of the firesetters and 17.6% of the control subjects had died of natural causes (OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.16-1.92), whereas 20.9% and 3.8% respectively, died an unnatural death (OR 6.71, 95% CI 4.79-9.40). Alcohol-related deaths were more frequent among firesetters than controls. Our findings confirm that fire-setting behavior is associated with high mortality. More attention must be paid to the treatment of suicidality, psychiatric comorbidities and alcohol use disorders within this group both during and after their sentences.

Keywords: Cause of death; Fire-setting; Survival rate.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / mortality
  • Cause of Death*
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Comorbidity
  • Finland
  • Firesetting Behavior / mortality*
  • Firesetting Behavior / psychology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forensic Psychiatry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prisoners / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Survival Analysis
  • Young Adult