The prevalence of mental disorders and patterns of comorbidity within a large sample of mentally ill prisoners: A network analysis [2020]

Comorbidity has profound implications in both the clinical field and research, yet little is known about the prevalence and structure of comorbid mental disorders. This article aims not only to present data on the prevalence of mental disorders and comorbidity, but also to explore relationships between comorbid mental disorders by using a network approach.

Data used in this cross-sectional study are part of a prospective cohort study within penitentiary psychiatric centers (PPCs) in the Netherlands. It includes DSM diagnoses of 5,257 unique male patients incarcerated in one of the PPC’s. Prevalence rates of mental disorders and comorbidity were calculated, the network of comorbid DSM diagnoses was constructed using regression coefficients.

Schizophrenia spectrum and substance-related disorders were most prevalent within this sample (56.7 and 43.1%, respectively), and over half of all patients were diagnosed with a comorbid disorder (56.9%). Four distinctive groups of disorders emerged from the network analysis of DSM diagnoses: substance use, impulsivity, poor social skills, and disruptive behaviors. Psychotic disorders were considered as a separate group as it was unconnected to other disorders.

Comorbid mental disorders can be described, at least in part, as connected networks. Underlying attributes as well as direct influences of mental disorders on one another seem to be affecting the presence of comorbidity. Results could contribute to the understanding of a possible causal relation between psychopathology and criminal behavior and the development of treatment programs targeting groups of disorders.

Nora van Buitenen, Chantal J.W. van den Berg, Jesse Meijers and Joke M. Harte
European Psychiatry, 11 June 2020