Effects of temporary psychiatric holds on length of stay and readmission risk among persons admitted for psychotic disorders

Int J Law Psychiatry. May-Jun 2021;76:101695. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2021.101695. Epub 2021 Mar 21.


The practice of involuntary psychiatric commitment is central to the acute treatment of persons with severe mental illness and others in psychiatric crisis. Deciding whether a patient should be admitted involuntarily requires weighing respect for autonomy against beneficence, considering the clinical needs of the patient, and navigating ambiguous legal standards. The relative dearth of information about the impact of involuntary commitment on objective patient outcomes complicates matters ethically, legally, and clinically. To address this gap in the literature, we sought to determine the association between temporary psychiatric holds and length of stay and readmission rates among a retrospective sample of adult patients admitted to a large psychiatric hospital with diagnoses of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, mania, and other psychotic disorders. In total, we identified 460 patients and 559 unique encounters meeting our inclusion criteria; 90 of the encounters were voluntary (involving a temporary psychiatric hold) and 469 were involuntary. Univariable and multivariable analyses suggested that temporary psychiatric holds were not significantly associated with either length of stay or readmission rate. These findings are relevant to clinicians who must decide whether to admit a patient involuntarily, as they suggest that making a patient involuntary is not associated with differences in length of stay or readmission risk.

Keywords: Civil commitment; Length of stay; Psychosis; Readmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Patient Readmission
  • Psychotic Disorders*
  • Retrospective Studies