Skip to main content

Epidemiology of inpatient violence and coercive measures


To give an overview of the current knowledge on the epidemiology of in-patient violence and coercive measures in clinical psychiatry.


Many studies have been conducted on the epidemiology of in-patient violence by use of standardized scales such as the SOAS-R. Much research on patient and environment characteristics has been compromised by methodological flaws such as sample selection bias. Epidemiological data on the use of coercive measures is scarcely available in most countries, and different ways of reporting render comparisons difficult.


Comparisons between countries indicate higher rates of in-patient violence in the Netherlands and in Sweden. The best predictors of in-patient violent behavior seem to be history of violent behavior, involuntary treatment, disturbed behaviors on the ward and severity of psychotic symptoms. To control such behavior, coercive measures of different types are widely used in apparently all countries. In Germany, full records of a set of hospitals are available for the recent years. 9% out of about 50,000 admissions were exposed to some kind of coercive measure. Figures from Switzerland and Finland show some differences in the patterns of frequency and duration of measures such as seclusion and mechanical restraint.


From the view of research, policy, public interest, and ethics, there is an urgent need to improve the data base particularly about the use of coercive measures in clinical psychiatry in many countries.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tilman Steinert.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Steinert, T. Epidemiology of inpatient violence and coercive measures. BMC Psychiatry 7, S15 (2007).

Download citation


  • Selection Bias
  • Data Base
  • Good Predictor
  • Current Knowledge
  • Epidemiological Data