Severe mental illness and criminal victimization: a systematic review


Roberto Maniglio, Department of Pedagogic, Psychological, and Didactic Sciences, University of Salento, Via Stampacchia 45/47, 73100 Lecce, Italy.


Objective:  To estimate the prevalence of criminal victimization among people with severe mental illness and to explore risk factors.

Method:  Four databases (MEDLINE, ScienceDirect, ERIC, and AMED) were searched for articles published between January 1966 and August 2007, supplemented with hand-search of reference lists from retrieved papers. The author and a Medical Doctor independently abstracted data and assessed study quality. Disagreements were resolved by consensus after review of the article and the review protocol.

Results:  Nine studies, including 5195 patients, were identified. Prevalence estimates of criminal victimization ranged from 4.3% to 35.04%. Rates of victimization among severely mentally ill persons were 2.3–140.4 times higher than those in the general population. Criminal victimization was most frequently associated with alcohol and/or illicit drug use/abuse, homelessness, more severe symptomatology, and engagement in criminal activity.

Conclusion:  Prevention and intervention programs should target high-risk groups and improve patients’ mental health and quality of life.