Involuntary psychiatric hospitalization among migrants in Italy: A matched sample study

Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2022 Mar;68(2):429-434. doi: 10.1177/00207640211001903. Epub 2021 Mar 14.


Background: Immigrants in Europe appear to be at higher risk of psychiatric coercive interventions. Involuntary psychiatric hospitalization poses significant ethical and clinical challenges. Nonetheless, reasons for migration and other risk factors for involuntary treatment were rarely addressed in previous studies. The aims of this study are to clarify whether immigrant patients with acute mental disorders are at higher risk to be involuntarily admitted to hospital and to explore clinical and migratory factors associated with involuntary treatment.

Methods: In this cross-sectional matched sample study, we compared the rates of involuntary treatment in a sample of first-generation immigrants admitted in a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit of a large metropolitan academic hospital to their age-, gender-, and psychiatric diagnosis-matched native counterparts. Clinical, sociodemographic, and migratory variables were collected. The Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale-expanded (BPRS-E) and the Clinical Global Impression-Severity (CGI-S) scale were administered. McNemar test was used for paired categorical variables and a binary logistic regression analysis was performed.

Results: A total of 234 patients were included in the analysis. Involuntary treatment rates were significantly higher in immigrants as compared to their matched natives (32% vs. 24% respectively; p < .001). Among immigrants, involuntary hospitalization was found to be more frequent in those patients whose length of stay in Italy was less than 2 years (OR = 4.2, 95% CI [1.4-12.7]).

Conclusion: Recently arrived immigrants appear to be at higher risk of involuntary admission. Since coercive interventions can be traumatic and negatively affect outcomes, strategies to prevent this phenomenon are needed.

Keywords: Migration; asylum seekers; involuntary psychiatric treatment; length of migration; refugees.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Involuntary Treatment*
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders* / psychology
  • Mental Disorders* / therapy
  • Transients and Migrants*