Changes in rates of psychiatric beds and prison populations in sub-Saharan Africa from 1990 to 2020

Mundt AP, Langerfeldt SD, Maphisa JM, Sourabie O, Yongsi BN, Serri ER, Bukasa Tshilonda JC, Te JH, Bitta MA, Mathe L, Liwimbi O, Dos Santos PF, Atilola O, Jansen S, Diegane Tine JA, Akran C, Jalloh A, Kagee A, Van Wyk ES, Forry JB, Imasiku ML, Chigiji H, Priebe S
J Glob Health. 2022;12

Permenent descriptor

Background: Psychiatric bed numbers (general, forensic, and residential) and prison populations have been considered indicators of institutionalization. The present study aimed to assess changes of those indicators across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) from 1990 to 2020. Methods: We retrospectively obtained data on psychiatric bed numbers and prison populations from 46 countries in SSA between 1990 and 2020. Mean and median rates, as well as percentage changes between first and last data points were calculated for all of SSA and for groups of countries based on income levels. Results: Primary data were retrieved from 17 out of 48 countries. Data from secondary sources were used for 29 countries. From two countries, data were unavailable. The median rate of psychiatric beds decreased from 3.0 to 2.2 per 100 000 population (median percentage change = -16.1%) between 1990 and 2020. Beds in forensic and residential facilities were nonexistent in most countries of SSA in 2020, and no trend for building those capacities was detected. The median prison population rate also decreased from 77.8 to 71.0 per 100 000 population (-7.8%). There were lower rates of psychiatric beds and prison populations in low-income and lower-middle income countries compared with upper-middle income countries. Conclusions: SSA countries showed, on average, a reduction of psychiatric bed rates from already very low levels, which may correspond to a crisis in acute psychiatric care. Psychiatric bed rates were, on average, about one twenty-fifth of countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), while prison population rates were similar. The heterogeneity of trends among SSA countries over the last three decades indicates that developments in the region may not have been based on coordinated policies and reflects unique circumstances faced by the individual countries.