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BACKGROUND: The number of elderly prisoners has increased significantly in Western countries over the past decade. Little is known about the psychiatric morbidity of this population. AIMS: To determine the prevalence of psychiatric morbidity in elderly sentenced prisoners. METHOD: A stratified sample of 203 male sentenced prisoners aged over 59 years, from 15 prisons in England and Wales, representing one in five men in this age group, was interviewed using semistructured standardised instruments for psychiatric illness and personality disorder. RESULTS: More than half of the elderly prisoners had a psychiatric diagnosis. The most common diagnoses were personality disorder and depressive illness. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of depressive illness was five times greater than that found in other studies of younger adult prisoners and elderly people in the community. Underdetected, undertreated depressive illness in elderly prisoners is an increasing public health problem.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Psychiatry

Publication Date





535 - 539


Aged, Depressive Disorder, England, Humans, Male, Mental Disorders, Middle Aged, Personality Disorders, Prevalence, Prisoners, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Risk Factors, Wales