Sociodemographic and Clinical Correlates Associated with the Frequent Service Users in an Italian Psychiatric Emergency Department

Diagnostics (Basel). 2023 Jan 25;13(3):430. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics13030430.


Background: The aim of the present study is to identify the main sociodemographic and clinical correlates associated with frequent service users (FSUs) in an Italian psychiatric emergency department.

Methods: This study is an observational and prospective clinical investigation. All subjects (N = 549) consecutively admitted to the Psychiatric Inpatient Unit of the IRCCS Ospedale Policlinico San Martino ((Genoa, Italy) were recruited over a period of 18 months.

Results: On average, FSUs were more likely to be single (75.0% vs. 64.0, p = 0.001), younger (38.79 years ± 14.68 vs. 45.94 years ± 16.94, p = 0.028), with an earlier onset (20.15 years ± 7.22 vs. 29.33 years ± 15.96, p < 0.001), and longer length of hospitalisation (13.65 days ± 12.40 vs. 9.89 ± 10.15, p = 0.006) compared to non-FSUs. While bipolar disorder was the most common primary diagnosis in both FSUs and non-FSUs, cluster B personality disorder was particularly elevated in FSUs (30.3% vs. 10.4%, p < 0.001). Furthermore, FSUs were more prone to substance use disorder (63.6% vs. 40.0%, p < 0.001), particularly cannabis (45.5% vs. 15.3%, p < 0.001), cocaine (33.3% vs. 10.4%, p < 0.001), and heroin (19.7% vs. 5.8%, p < 0.001), and were more likely to have non-suicidal self-injuries (21.2% vs. 6.8%, p < 0.001). FSUs were significantly more likely to be discharged against medical advice (18.2% vs. 5.6%, p < 0.001) or to have at least one escape attempt from the psychiatric ward (12.1% vs. 0.8%, p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Specific clinical and social profiles of patients who repeatedly utilised the services of a psychiatric emergency department have been identified. Our findings can be used to develop suitable structures to support and reintegrate FSUs into society and work life.

Keywords: cannabinoid; cocaine; emergency psychiatry; frequent service users; mood disorders; personality disorders; substances.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.