Older offenders: Understanding the relation between criminal behavior, mental and physical health disorders in ageing.

by Carmen Solares Canal

There is no novelty in saying that the world´s population is getting older but, how does this increasing ageing phenomenon impact in specific contexts and vulnerable population groups such as criminal offenders and inmates? In the present research, we aim to investigate the relation between criminal behavior, health status and ageing.

Previous research suggests that the proportion of prisoners over 50 years old represent between the 10 and 19 percentage of the prison population in different western-countries. However, little is known about the specific health disorders, the psychological traits and the social situation of older offenders. Criminal behavior in ageing and long-term patterns of deviant behavior along the lifespan is associated with different sociodemographic, socioeconomic, medical and psychological risk factors that may influence the mental, neurocognitive and physical health as well as the psychosocial well-being of older offenders. Psychological research face a challenge and a unique opportunity to investigate different ageing trajectories and to develop comprehensive population-based studies to understand the special needs of this specific but fast-growing population. This will help to understand what ageing means for older offenders, but also, to support the development of more adjusted interventions in order to improve their life conditions behind bars and to boost a successful re-enter in their communities.

In doing so, the first stage of my doctoral research is to investigate the state of the art of this new research field in order to understand what has been done and what is known about the health and psychosocial needs of older offenders. Thus, this first study is a systematic review and a meta-analysis of the literature aimed at exploring three main questions: 1) What are the most common mental and physical health disorders in older offenders?; 2) Does the health profile of older offenders differ to the health of older adults without a criminal history? and; 3) how do different psychological, sociodemographic and health variables associated with criminality contribute to cumulative health and social disadvantages in ageing?. The preliminary results show a high burden of cardiovascular disease, multimorbidity, geriatric conditions (ie. functionality problems, cognitive impairment) and depression among other mental and physical health disorders.

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