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You are here:
Australian prisoners have significant health issues, with high
levels of mental health problems, communicable diseases, smoking,
risky alcohol consumption and illicit drug use, according to a new
report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and
The health of Australia's prisoners 2009 is the first national
report to examine prisoner health in Australia. It draws on several
important data sources including the AIHW census of public and
private prisons, conducted for the first time in 2009. It also
draws on the annual deaths in custody report, and the most recent
available study on bloodborne viruses in prison entrants.
The report highlights a number of significant health issues. It
shows that rates of chronic conditions, such as asthma,
cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and communicable diseases such as
hepatitis B and hepatitis C, are significantly higher among
prisoners than among the general population.
'Of particular concern is the number of people who enter prison
with mental health issues and high levels of psychological
distress,' said Ingrid Johnston of the AIHW's Social and Indigenous
The report shows that almost 40% of prisoners reported having
had a mental health disorder at some time; over 30% were referred
to prison mental health services, and almost 20% were taking
medication for a mental-health-related condition at the time they
A history of head injury was also common among prisoners. Over
40% reported having had a blow to the head resulting in a loss of
consciousness at some time in their lives.
'Risky health behaviours were far more prevalent among prisoners
than among the general community,' Ms Johnston said.
Over 80% of prisoners were current smokers; and during the 12
months prior to entering prison more than 70% had used illicit
drugs, and over half had consumed alcohol at risky levels.
'Imprisonment does, however, present an opportunity for health
interventions and treatment,' Ms Johnston said.
'An estimated 50,000 prisoners are released from prison each
year in Australia, so the health of prisoners is significant for
the health of the wider Australian community.'
The report also includes information on educational attainment,
the use of health services, the health of Indigenous prisoners and
comparisons with the general community and internationally. The
2009 report provides a baseline to monitor prisoner health over
Thursday 3 June 2010
Further information:Ms Ingrid Johnston, AIHW, 02 6244 1211, mob.
0407 915 851
For media copies of the report: Publications
Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.
The health of Australia's prisoners 2009
(Report summary) (Full