Mass Incarceration

Past incarceration linked to worse health outcomes

January 17, 2023

3 min learn

Garcia-Grossman reviews no related monetary disclosures. Please see the examine for all different authors’ related disclosures.

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Adults with a historical past of incarceration had a better threat for creating power illnesses and geriatric syndromes than those that have been by no means incarcerated, highlighting a necessity for focused interventions, in keeping with researchers.

Whereas earlier analysis has established that incarcerated individuals face higher rates of geriatric syndromes and power illness, Ilana R. Garcia-Grossman, MD, a board-certified major care internist and present Veterans Affairs fellow on the College of California, San Francisco, Nationwide Clinician Students Program, and colleagues wrote in JAMA Community Open that it’s unclear if older adults who’ve a historical past of incarceration also face these risks.


Knowledge derived from: Garcia-Grossman IR, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.49785.

“There’s a profound lack of knowledge about U.S. adults with a felony authorized historical past,” the researchers wrote, including there’s “a essential want to enhance information assortment and transparency to generate correct estimates of lifetime incarceration within the U.S.”

Garcia-Grossman and colleagues performed a cross-sectional examine to higher perceive the connections between incarceration historical past and well being outcomes in older age. They used population-based information from 13,462 adults aged 50 years or older who accomplished the 2012 or 2014 Well being and Retirement Examine (HRS), which is a nationally consultant survey.

Of the members, 946 adults with a imply age of 62.4 years had skilled incarceration, yielding a prevalence charge of seven.6%. These with a historical past of incarceration have been extra more likely to be males — 83% vs. 42.8% — within the lowest quartile of wealth — 44.1% vs. 21.4%.

“We discovered that at the least one in 15 adults … had skilled incarceration throughout their lifetime,” the researchers wrote. “That is doubtless an underestimate of the particular expertise of older U.S. adults because the HRS doesn’t embrace individuals who have been unhoused, didn’t have a phone or have been incarcerated on the time of examine enrollment.”

There have been no associations between a historical past of incarceration and diabetes or cardiovascular circumstances, however the researchers discovered a 20% to 80% greater threat for all geriatric syndromes, together with listening to impairment (RR = 1.22; 95% CI, 1.04-1.44) and actions of each day residing impairment (RR = 1.62; 95% CI, 1.4-1.88) after adjusting for age, intercourse, race and ethnicity, wealth, instructional attainment and uninsured standing.

“We discovered that well being outcomes related to a historical past of incarceration had a constructive linear pattern in our unadjusted evaluation; longer incarceration intervals have been related to greater illness prevalence for a lot of well being outcomes,” Garcia-Grossman and colleagues wrote.

As well as, prior incarceration was additionally linked to greater dangers for some power illnesses, together with:

  • power lung illness (RR = 1.56; 95% CI, 1.27-1.91);
  • heavy alcohol use (RR = 2.13; 95% CI, 1.59-2.84); and
  • psychological well being circumstances (RR = 1.8; 95% CI, 1.55-2.08).

“These findings are according to prior analysis demonstrating a excessive prevalence of power well being circumstances and geriatric syndromes at comparatively younger ages amongst older adults who have been at present incarcerated (somewhat than residing locally) and assist the notion of accelerated getting older on this inhabitants,” Garcia-Grossman and colleagues wrote.

Though the examine was not meant to judge “underlying causal pathways between incarceration and poor well being,” the researchers provided a number of potential explanations:

  • individuals who expertise incarceration might face worse baseline well being that persists all through their lives;
  • going through incarceration might worsen poor well being outcomes due to the variable entry to bodily exercise, wholesome meals and high-quality well being care, or due to “publicity to trauma and violence, acute and power stress from residing in dehumanizing circumstances;”
  • incarceration can also result in “downstream obstacles to different social determinants of well being,” like housing and employment, which additionally contribute to worse well being outcomes; and
  • connections between incarceration and worse well being outcomes may very well be “the results of unaccounted confounders, suggesting the necessity for a longitudinal cohort examine of individuals following launch from incarceration.”

“Whatever the underlying etiology, our outcomes assist {that a} historical past of incarceration is a crucial marker for threat of poor well being outcomes and thus ought to be thought of by clinicians, public well being professionals, and coverage makers,” they wrote.

Policymakers and well being care professionals ought to take into account the well being implications of incarceration for older adults, in keeping with Garcia-Grossman and colleagues.

“Our findings point out that incarceration is so prevalent within the US that an older grownup’s chance of getting a historical past of incarceration is greater than their lifetime threat of creating colorectal most cancers,” they wrote. “But, regardless of the ubiquity of felony authorized system involvement within the U.S., there was comparatively little funding and analysis devoted to understanding the downstream well being outcomes and wishes of this inhabitants.”

The researchers additionally famous that the proof concerning long-term well being penalties from incarceration is essential as policymakers take a look at strategies to “scale back the footprint of mass incarceration within the U.S.”

“Provided that incarceration is differentially skilled by racial and ethnic minority people within the U.S., there’s a want for extra analysis to judge whether or not involvement within the felony authorized system contributes to well being disparities seen in these populations,” they wrote. “Well being care professionals might profit from enhanced coaching, for instance, concerning the results of incarceration on people and communities or the existence and implications of accelerated getting older on this inhabitants.”

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