Prevalence and correlates of depression and anxiety disorder in a sample of inmates in a Nigerian prison

Int J Psychiatry Med. 2015;50(2):203-18. doi: 10.1177/0091217415605038.


Background to the study: Prisoners tend to be marginalized and deprived of the rights and privileges that other citizens in the community enjoy. Their separation from families, adverse effects on health of prison environment, and the uncertainty about the future place a great psychological burden on them which can lead to the development of mental illness.

Aims and objectives: The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of psychiatric morbidity (depression and anxiety) and the associated factors among a sample of the prison inmates.

Materials and method: The study was descriptive and cross-sectional in design; it was conducted in a medium security prison in Benin City, Nigeria. Participants were interviewed with the Self-Reporting Questionnaire-20, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and a socio-demographic questionnaire. Two hundred and fifty-two prisoners who were selected by systematic sampling techniques participated in the study and the data were analyzed using the 16th version of the SPSS with the statistical level of significance set at p < 0.05. Data were presented in tables; frequencies and percentages were calculated. Chi-square and logistic regression statistical tests were performed to determine variables that have relationship with psychiatric morbidity.

Results: The mean age of the respondents was 33.6 years (SD ± 9.29), and the majority of the respondents (43.7%) were in the age range 21-30 years. The prevalence of general psychiatric morbidity (SRQ-20 caseness) was 80.6%, while 72.6% and 77.8% were found to be positive for depression and anxiety symptoms respectively on the HADS. Overall, 84.5% of the respondents had at least one type of psychiatric morbidity. Age, marital status, self-reported physical and mental health, previous mental illness, imprisonment status, prison accommodation, prison meal, and health care services were found to be significantly associated with depression, anxiety or general psychiatric morbidity. Self-reported poor current mental health was the only variable that predicted all the three types of psychiatric morbidity.

Conclusion: Prisoners in this study, and as in previous reports, had high prevalence rates of psychiatric morbidity. Thus, prisoners have a need for regular psychiatric screening and treatment. The consequences of untreated psychiatric morbidity and the need for improved health care services and infrastructure in the prison were discussed.

Keywords: Nigeria; Prevalence; anxiety; depression; prisoners.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Criminals / psychology
  • Criminals / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nigeria / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult