Gang violence linked to high level of mental disorders

Young men in gangs are significantly more likely to experience a mental disorder compared to men not involved in gang activity, BBC News reported.

In a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers surveyed 4,664 British men between the ages of 18 and 34. Overall, 3,284 men said they had not been exposed to violence in the past five years, 1,272 men said they had been assaulted or involved in a fight and 108 men reported being involved in a gang.

Both the gang members and the men who had been exposed to some form of violence were more likely to seek psychiatric help, compared to the nonviolent men. However, men involved in gangs experienced significantly worse mental health outcomes.

Out of the 108 gang members, 85 percent had a personality disorder, over half had an anxiety disorder and 25 percent tested positive for psychosis. Furthermore, a third of the gang members reported having attempting suicide.

Despite these findings, men exposed to violence were less likely to report problems with depression than men not exposed to violence, according to the report. This led researchers to believe that anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were at the root of the men’s mental health issues.

"It is probable that, among gang members, high levels of anxiety disorder and psychosis were explained by post-traumatic stress disorder, the most frequent psychiatric outcome of exposure to violence,” said Jeremy Coid, lead study author and director of the forensic psychiatry research unit at Queen Mary, University of London.

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