Early discharge or reduced length of stay for inpatient psychiatric patients is related to increased readmission rates and worse clinical outcomes including increased risk for suicide. Trajectories of mental illness outcomes have been identified as an important method for predicting the optimal length of stay but the distinguishing factors that separate trajectories remain unclear. We sought to identify the distinct classes of patients who demonstrated similar trajectories of mental illness over the course of inpatient treatment, and we explore the patient characteristics associated with these mental illness trajectories. We used data (N = 3406) from an inpatient psychiatric hospital with intermediate lengths of stay. Using growth mixture modeling, latent mental illness scores were derived from six mental illness indicators: psychological flexibility, emotion regulation problems, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and disability. The patients were grouped into three distinct trajectory classes: (1) High-Risk, Rapid Improvement (HR-RI); (2) Low-Risk, Gradual Improvement (LR-GI); and (3) High-Risk, Gradual Improvement (HR-GI). The HR-GI was significantly younger than the other two classes. The HR-GI had significantly more female patients than males, while the LR-GI had more male patients than females. Our findings indicated that younger females had more severe mental illness at admission and only gradual improvement during the inpatient treatment period, and they remained in treatment for longer lengths of stay, than older males.
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