Skip to main content

01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

Disease profiles of detainees in the Canton of Vaud in Switzerland: gender and age differences in substance abuse, mental health and chronic health conditions

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Karine Moschetti, Pierre Stadelmann, Tenzin Wangmo, Alberto Holly, Patrick Bodenmann, Jean-Blaise Wasserfallen, Bernice S. Elger, Bruno Gravier
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

KM is responsible for the study design, and interpreted the data, supported data management, conducted the statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript. PS performed data management and conducted the statistical analysis. TW made substantial contributions to improve the study design. AH participated in the initial conception of the work. PB participated in the interpretation of the data. JBW made substantial contributions to improve the study design. BE participated in the initial conception of the work. BG elaborated and coordinated data collection and participated in the interpretation of the data; he revised the intellectual content of the manuscript. All authors gave critical contributions to the manuscript. They also approved the final version.



Literature on the disease profile of prisoners that differentiates by age and gender remains sparse. This study aimed to describe the health of correctional inmates in terms of substance abuse problems and mental and somatic health conditions, and compare it by gender and age.


This study examined cross-sectional data from the Canton of Vaud in Switzerland on the health conditions of detainees who were in prison on January 1, 2011 or entered prison in 2011. Health conditions validated by physician examination were reported using the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) version 10. The analyses were descriptive by groups of prisoners: the entire sample (All), Men, Older adults and Women.


A total of 1,664 individuals were included in the analysis. Men comprised 91.5 % of the sample and had a mean age of 33 years. The other 8.5 % were women and had an average age of 39. Older adults (i.e., age 50 and older) represented 7 % of the total sample. Overall, 80 % of inmates were non-Swiss citizens, but the proportion of Swiss prisoners was higher among the older adults (51 %) and women (29 %). Overall, 41 % of inmates self-reported substance abuse problems. Of those, 27 % were being treated by psychiatrists for behavioral disorders related to substance abuse. Chronic infectious diseases were found in 9 % of the prison population. In addition, 27 % of detainees suffered from serious mental health conditions. Gender and age had an influence on the disease profile of this sample: compared to the entire prison population, the older inmates were less likely to misuse illegal drugs and to suffer from communicable infections but exhibited more problems with alcohol and a higher burden of chronic health conditions. Female prisoners were more disposed to mental health problems (including drug abuse) and infectious diseases. In terms of chronic diseases, women suffered from the same conditions as men, but the diseases were more prevalent in women.


It is important to understand the different disease profiles of prisoners by gender and age, as it helps identify the needs of different groups and tailor age-and gender-specific interventions.
Über diesen Artikel

Weitere Artikel der Ausgabe 1/2015

BMC Public Health 1/2015 Zur Ausgabe