Involuntary Psychiatric Hospitalization: How Patient Characteristics Affect Decision-Making

Psychiatr Q. 2022 Mar;93(1):297-310. doi: 10.1007/s11126-021-09939-2. Epub 2021 Sep 18.


Emergency department (ED) psychiatrists face the consequential decision to pursue involuntary inpatient psychiatric admission. Research on the relationship between patient characteristics and the decision to pursue involuntary psychiatric admission is limited. Using data from 2017 to 2018 at an urban Los Angeles hospital, we used generalized linear mixed effects models to compare patients who were involuntarily admitted to inpatient psychiatry to patients who were discharged from the ED. Of 2,448 patients included in the study, 1,217 (49.7%) were involuntarily admitted to inpatient psychiatry and 1,231 (50.3%) were discharged. After controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, admitted patients were more likely to have been brought in by police, have had an organized suicide plan or recent attempt, physical signs of harm, psychosis, depression or hopelessness, lack social support, have diagnoses of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and be administered injectable psychotropic medications. Stimulant use, a diagnosis of anxiety or developmental disorders, and recent medical ED utilization were associated with discharge. Psychiatrists pursued involuntarily psychiatric hospitalization based on factors potentially indicative of dangerousness, leaving patients, particularly those with recent substance use, without immediate access to treatment. Policies should focus on increasing follow up to high quality, voluntary outpatient mental health care.

Keywords: Consult-liaison psychiatry; Emergency psychiatry; Involuntary civil commitment; Psychiatric hospitalizations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder*
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Mental Disorders* / therapy
  • Psychiatry*
  • Psychotic Disorders*