Mental illness and psychiatric treatment amongst firesetters, other offenders and the general community

Lauren Victoria Ducat, James Robert Ogloff, Troy Erin McEwan

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Firesetting is often reported to be associated with psychopathology, but frequently these conclusions are based on studies reliant on selective forensic psychiatric samples without the use of comparison groups. The aim of the study was to examine the rates of mental illness, substance use disorders, personality pathology and psychiatric service usage in a population of convicted firesetters compared with other offenders and community controls. Method: Using a data-linkage design, the study examined the psychiatric histories and usage of public mental health services by 1328 arsonists convicted between 2000 and 2009 in Victoria, Australia. These were compared with 1328 matched community controls and 421 non-firesetting offenders. Results: Firesetters were significantly more likely to have been registered with psychiatric services (37 ) compared with other offenders (29.3 ) and community controls (8.7 ). The firesetters were also more likely to have utilised a diverse range of public mental health services. Firesetters attracted psychiatric diagnoses more often than community controls and other offenders, particularly affective, substance use, and personality disorders. Conclusions: This study confirms that there is a link between firesetting and psychopathology, suggesting that there is a role for the psychiatric screening of known firesetters, and a need to consider psychopathology in formulating the risk for further firesetting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)945 - 953
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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