A prospective study of violence by psychiatric patients after hospital discharge

Psychiatr Serv. 1997 May;48(5):678-81. doi: 10.1176/ps.48.5.678.


Objective: The study assessed the frequency of violence by patients two weeks after discharge from a psychiatric hospital and identified characteristics of patients with an increased risk of violence after discharge.

Methods: A structured form was used to interview patients aged 18 to 59 years in a private university psychiatric hospital. Patients provided self-reports of past violence, and violence while in the hospital was assessed by routine nurse ratings. Patients were telephoned two weeks after discharge to assess violence since discharge.

Results: Sixteen of 430 patients who were interviewed by telephone two weeks after discharge reported violence against persons since their discharge. Patients who were violent in the month before admission were nine times more likely to be violent in the two weeks after discharge, compared with patients who were not violent just before admission. Patients with a personality disorder were four times more likely than patients without a personality disorder to be violent after discharge. The targets of violence were often family members or other intimates and often the same persons attacked before hospitalization.

Conclusions: Patients who were violent just before admission were more likely to be violent after discharge and to attack the same persons they had attacked in the past. Clinicians should routinely evaluate past violence and work with the patient and potential targets of violence to prevent future violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Patient Discharge / statistics & numerical data
  • Personality Disorders / complications
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*