Aggressive and violent behavior in a population of psychiatric inpatients

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 1997 Oct;32(7):428-34. doi: 10.1007/BF00788184.


The aim of this observational study was to assess the rates of aggressive and violent behavior in patients admitted to an Italian emergency psychiatric unit and to explore possible risk factors for patient violence. In a population of 313 consecutive patients, we considered aggressive or violent behavior, rated according to a hierarchy from no aggressive behavior to serious physical violence. The results confirm that young age, psychotic symptoms, excitement, akathisia, and diagnosis of personality disorder are risk factors for violent behavior. The unique and major finding of the study is the low prevalence of aggressive and violent acts in this sample of patients, possibly related to their cultural background and to the system of psychiatric care. These data provide supportive evidence for the importance of sociocultural factors in the behavior of psychiatric patients and suggest the need to explore new strategies of prevention and treatment of patient aggression and violence. A non-restraint policy could be a critical factor in reducing violence among psychiatric inpatients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Violence / psychology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*