People with mental illness are much more likely to be victims of murder than
other people, a new study finds.
For the study, which was published online, researchers looked at data from
the entire adult population - more than 7 million people - in Sweden between
2001 and 2008.
During that time, there were 615 murders. Of those, 22% were among people
with mental-health disorders, which were grouped into five categories:
substance-use disorder; schizophrenia; mood disorders, including bipolar
disorder and depression; anxiety disorders; and personality disorders.
What the study found
After adjusting for other risk factors, the researchers concluded that people
with mental-health disorders had a fivefold overall increased risk of death by
People with substance-use disorders had the highest increased risk (about
nine times higher), followed by those with personality disorders (about three
times higher), depression (2.6 times higher), anxiety disorders (2.2 times
higher), and schizophrenia (1.8 times higher), according to a journal news
One explanation for the findings is that people with mental illness are more
likely to live in poor neighbourhoods, which have higher murder rates, said
Casey Crump, a clinical assistant professor in the department of medicine at
Stanford University, and colleagues.
People with mental-health disorders may also be in closer contact with other
mentally ill people and be less aware of their safety risks.
The study authors said this type of research may help lead to more effective
ways to improve the health and safety of people with mental illness. This
"should include collaborations between mental-health clinics and the criminal
justice system to develop personal safety and conflict-management skills among
people with mental illness," they wrote.
Improved housing, financial stability and treatment for substance abuse may
also lower the risk of violent crime for people with mental illness, they
The findings show that doctors need to assess the full range of potential
harm faced by people with mental illness, Roger Webb and colleagues at the
University of Manchester, in England, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
This would include being a victim or perpetrator of violence, abuse and
bullying; suicidal behaviour; accidental drug overdoses; and other dangers
associated with intoxication or impulsivity. Patients and their families should
receive advice about how to avoid these threats.
Although the study found an association between having a mental illness and
higher risk of being a murder victim, it did not establish a cause-and-effect
The National Alliance on Mental Illness has more about mental