Study co-author Jason Schnittker of the University of Pennsylvania, Michael Massoglia of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Christopher Uggen of the University of Minnesota said most common psychiatric disorders found among former inmates, including impulse control disorders, emerge in childhood and adolescence and, therefore, predate incarceration.
Yet, incarceration seems to lead to some mood related psychiatric disorders, such as major depression, which have important implications for what happens to inmates after their release, the researchers said.
The study authors used data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, which took place between 2001 and 2003.
The results, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, revealed robust and long-lasting relationships between incarceration and psychiatric conditions that adversely affected one's mood, such as major depression.
"These conditions, in turn, are strongly related to other impairments, including a diminished capacity to form social relationships and to focus on daily activities including work," Schnittker said in a statement. "Although often neglected as a consequence of incarceration, mood related conditions might explain some of the difficulties former inmates experience following release."
In the study's conclusion, the researchers suggested mental health treatment could help former inmates reintegrate into society and they encourage efforts to facilitate this.
"Even though many former inmates want to get back on their feet after release, they experience numerous difficulties in doing so, some legal, some social, and some personal," Schnittker said. "Being depressed probably makes all of these obstacles even more difficult to overcome. Re-entry requires motivation, and depression can rob you of that."