Identification of risk factors for involuntary psychiatric hospitalization: using environmental socioeconomic data and methods of machine learning to improve prediction

BMC Psychiatry. 2020 Aug 8;20(1):401. doi: 10.1186/s12888-020-02803-w.


Background: The purpose of this study was to identify factors associated with a high risk of involuntary psychiatric in-patient hospitalization both on the individual level and on the level of mental health services and the socioeconomic environment that patients live in.

Methods: The present study expands on a previous analysis of the health records of 5764 cases admitted as in-patients in the four psychiatric hospitals of the Metropolitan City of Cologne, Germany, in the year 2011 (1773 cases treated under the Mental Health Act and 3991 cases treated voluntarily). Our previous analysis had included medical, sociodemographic and socioeconomic data of every case and used a machine learning-based prediction model employing chi-squared automatic interaction detection (CHAID). Our current analysis attempts to improve the previous one through (1) optimizing the machine learning procedures (use of a different type of decision-tree prediction model (Classification and Regression Trees (CART) and application of hyperparameter tuning (HT)), and (2) the addition of patients' environmental socioeconomic data (ESED) to the data set.

Results: Compared to our previous analysis, model fit was improved. Main diagnoses of an organic mental or a psychotic disorder (ICD-10 groups F0 and F2), suicidal behavior upon admission, admission outside of regular service hours and absence of outpatient treatment prior to admission were confirmed as powerful predictors of detention. Particularly high risks were shown for (1) patients with an organic mental disorder, specifically if they were retired, admitted outside of regular service hours and lived in assisted housing, (2) patients with suicidal tendencies upon admission who did not suffer from an affective disorder, specifically if it was unclear whether there had been previous suicide attempts, or if the affected person lived in areas with high unemployment rates, and (3) patients with psychosis, specifically those who lived in densely built areas with a large proportion of small or one-person households.

Conclusions: Certain psychiatric diagnoses and suicidal tendencies are major risk factors for involuntary psychiatric hospitalization. In addition, service-related and environmental socioeconomic factors contribute to the risk for detention. Identifying modifiable risk factors and particularly vulnerable risk groups should help to develop suitable preventive measures.

Keywords: Area-deprivation; Decision-tree analysis; Environmental socioeconomic data; Involuntary admission; Machine learning; Mental health act; Urbanization.

MeSH terms

  • Germany
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning
  • Mental Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors