Absconding behaviour: an exploratory investigation in an acute inpatient unit
Meehan, T., Morrison, P.A. and McDougall, S. (1999) Absconding behaviour: an exploratory investigation in an acute inpatient unit. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 33 (4). pp. 533-537.
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Objective: The aim of this study is to identify patient and environmental characteristics associated with absconding behaviour, and to gain an understanding of the behaviour from the patients’ perspective.
Method: A prospective analysis of 77 consecutive incidents of absent-without-leave (AWOL) behaviour (n = 51 patients) was undertaken to develop a profile of patient and environmental characteristics associated with absconding behaviour. In addition, semi-structured interviews were carried out with a subsample of 14 patients within 24 h of returning to hospital from being AWOL.
Results: Those who absconded were male (58%), under 40 years of age (74%), admitted involuntarily (78%), and had a diagnosis of schizophrenia (42%). One-third of all AWOL incidents resulted from repeated absconding by the same individuals. The first 7 days post admission was a high-risk period for absconding behaviour. Issues raised in the interviews with patients identified a number of situational and environmental factors which are likely to increase the risk of absconding.
Conclusions: Situational and environmental factors are more likely than patient characteristics to be predictive of absconding behaviour.
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