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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAlbany: Chronic Medical Conditions Associated with Incarceration History

Poor conditions in correctional facilities have a direct impact on the health of persons who are incarcerated. However, the relationship between incarceration and poor long-term health may be due to elevated health risks present for individuals before and after incarceration, such as adverse childhood experiences and stigma following release from a correctional facility.

A recent study by Dr. Tomoko Udo took a life course perspective on the associations between incarceration history and chronic medical illness by using 36,309 nationally-representative, non-institutionalized adults from the 2012-2013 National Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions III.

Incarceration history was associated with significantly increased odds of most chronic medical conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory diseases, and infectious diseases; many associations remained significant when factoring in childhood adversity and recent stressful life events. Among persons with incarceration history, women were more likely to report health problems than their male counterparts, and White individuals reported more health problems relative to Hispanic and Black individuals.

These results, published in Health Psychology, suggest that incarceration history is important factor to consider when addressing health disparities and that providing early, targeted intervention to survivors of adverse childhood experiences may help address issues of incarceration and rising health care costs. It is important that appropriate care is provided for individuals within — and after release from — correctional facilities to reduce the burden that these conditions place on the individuals and the healthcare system as a whole.