Risk factors associated with use of coercive practices in adult mental health inpatients: A systematic review

J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2022 Apr;29(2):220-239. doi: 10.1111/jpm.12757. Epub 2021 Apr 20.


WHAT IS KNOWN ON THE SUBJECT?: Coercive practices such as restraint (physically holding a person) or seclusion (containing a person in locked room) are frequently used in mental health care. How often and which specific practices are used is not consistent across different healthcare systems, hospitals or wards. Internationally, there is agreement on the need to monitor and reduce the use of coercive practices. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS TO EXISTING KNOWLEDGE?: The reviewed evidence suggests a number of different factors affect a person's risk of experiencing coercive practices, while admitted to a mental health ward. However, there is currently not enough high-quality research evidence to say which factors are most important or how they work to influence the likelihood of a person experiencing coercive practice. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE?: When carrying out risk assessments, mental health professionals must take into account that a number of different factors are important and explore these with the patient. Care plans aimed at minimizing the use of coercive practices, such as restraint, must be personalized and developed with the individual. ABSTRACT: Introduction Coercive practices, such as physical restraint and seclusion, are a common feature of all mental healthcare systems. However, there is considerable variation in their use, concern about their iatrogenic potential and agreement internationally on the need to monitor and reduce their use. Aims To examine the evidence concerning risk factors associated with use of coercive practices in adults admitted to inpatient psychiatric services. Method A systematic review, consistent with PRIMSA guidelines, of four databases (PsychINFO, Medline, CINHAL and Embase). Peer-reviewed, English language articles from database inception to February 2020 were included. Methodological quality was assessed using the Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies. Results Twenty studies met inclusion criteria. Risk factors examined in the studies organized around four categories: patient socio-demographic; patient clinical; staff; and organizational factors. Overall, methodological quality of papers was deemed weak, and there was insufficient evidence to support any singular risk factor. Discussion The reviewed evidence suggests risk of coercive practice in inpatient mental health settings is multifactorial. Further research to standardize concept definitions and elucidate the mechanisms behind variance in use is required. Implications for Practice Assessment of patients at risk of coercive practice must take a multifactorial approach.

Keywords: coercion; inpatient settings; mental health; restraint and seclusion; restrictive practice; systematic literature review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Coercion
  • Humans
  • Inpatients* / psychology
  • Mental Disorders* / therapy
  • Mental Health
  • Restraint, Physical
  • Risk Factors