What does the mental wellbeing of people in Scottish prisons look like?

Published 10 October 2019

A new study led by the SPHSU alongside colleagues from ISD Scotland, is the first to describe the mental wellbeing of people in prison in Scotland. Previous research with people in prison has focused on measures of mental ill-health rather than mental wellbeing, which is a distinct concept.

They found that mental wellbeing was significantly lower among the prison population compared with their peers outside of prison, after accounting for age group, gender and socioeconomic deprivation.

Mental wellbeing was particularly low among two groups who are the focus of current policy debates on prison reform: those on remand and those with multiple previous prison episodes.

The researchers used data from the Scottish Prisoner Survey which includes the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS), a 14-item scale with higher scores indicating greater wellbeing. They also used WEMWBS data from the Scottish Health Survey to compare with the population at liberty.

Dr Emily Tweed, lead author of the study said:

“Mental wellbeing is an important facet of the extreme health inequalities experienced by people in prison. These findings demonstrate the importance of a healthy prison environment, alongside routine monitoring of mental wellbeing for policy and practice improvement.”

Mental wellbeing among people in prison in Scotland: an analysis of repeat cross-sectional surveys is published in the Journal of Public Health.


First published: 8 October 2019

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