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Mental disorders and the risk of adult violent and psychological victimisation: a prospective, population-based study

  • C. Christ (a1) (a2) (a3), M. Ten Have (a4), R. de Graaf (a4), D. J. F. van Schaik (a1) (a3), M. J. Kikkert (a2), J. J. M. Dekker (a2) (a5) and A. T. F. Beekman (a1) (a3)...



Psychiatric patients are at increased risk to become victim of violence. It remains unknown whether subjects of the general population with mental disorders are at risk of victimisation as well. In addition, it remains unclear whether the risk of victimisation differs across specific disorders. This study aimed to determine whether a broad range of mood, anxiety and substance use disorders at baseline predict adult violent (physical and/or sexual) and psychological victimisation at 3-year follow-up, also after adjustment for childhood trauma. Furthermore, this study aimed to examine whether specific types of childhood trauma predict violent and psychological victimisation at follow-up, after adjustment for mental disorder. Finally, this study aimed to examine whether the co-occurrence of childhood trauma and any baseline mental disorder leads to an incrementally increased risk of future victimisation.


Data were derived from the first two waves of the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study-2 (NEMESIS-2): a psychiatric epidemiological cohort study among a nationally representative adult population. Mental disorders were assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview version 3.0. Longitudinal associations between 12 mental disorders at baseline and violent and psychological victimisation at 3-year follow-up (n = 5303) were studied using logistic regression analyses, with adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics and childhood trauma. Furthermore, the moderating effect of childhood trauma on these associations was examined.


Associations with victimisation varied considerably across specific mental disorders. Only alcohol dependence predicted both violent and psychological victimisation after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics and childhood trauma. Depression, panic disorder, social phobia, generalised anxiety disorder and alcohol dependence predicted subsequent psychological victimisation in the fully adjusted models. All types of childhood trauma independently predicted violent and psychological victimisation after adjustment for any mental disorder. The presence of any childhood trauma moderated the association between any anxiety disorder and psychological victimisation, whereas no interaction between mental disorder and childhood trauma on violent victimisation existed.


The current study shows that members of the general population with mental disorders are at increased risk of future victimisation. However, the associations with violent and psychological victimisation vary considerably across specific disorders. Clinicians should be aware of the increased risk of violent and psychological victimisation in individuals with these mental disorders – especially those with alcohol dependence – and individuals with a history of childhood trauma. Violence prevention programmes should be developed for people at risk. These programmes should not only address violent victimisation, but also psychological victimisation.

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Author for correspondence: C. Christ, E-mail:


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