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Five Percent of Violent Crimes Caused by Severely Mentally Ill

Attributable risk higher in women across all ages; lowest among males and females aged 15 to 24

MONDAY, Aug. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with severe mental illnesses may commit as many as one in 20 violent crimes, although the criminals vary by gender and age, according to a report in the August issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Seena Fazel, M.D., of the University of Oxford in the U.K., and colleagues examined Swedish national databases for people who were discharged from hospitals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other psychoses who committed a violent crime between 1988 and 2000. A total of 98,082 patients were tallied. The researchers calculated the rate of violent crimes in the general population attributable to those with severe mental illness.

The investigators found that those with severe mental illness committed 21,119 individual counts of violent crime, or 3.2 violent crimes per convicted individual, compared with a rate of 2.3 violent crimes per convicted person in the general population. Over a 13-year period, there were 45 violent crimes committed per 1,000 inhabitants. The attributable risk was higher in women across all ages, although it was lowest among men and women between the ages of 15 and 24.

"This finding should generate a more informed debate on the contribution of persons with severe mental illness to societal violence," the authors write.

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