Consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on admissions to general hospital psychiatric wards in Italy: Reduced psychiatric hospitalizations and increased suicidality

The Italian Network for Research on Mental Health during COVID-19 Pandemic

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Aims: The present investigation aimed at evaluating differences in psychiatric hospitalizations in Italy during and after the lockdown due to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), compared to the same periods in 2018 and 2019. Methods: We obtained and analyzed anonymized data on psychiatric admissions (n = 4550) from 12 general hospital psychiatric wards (GHPWs) in different Italian regions (catchment area = 3.71 millions of inhabitants). Using a mixed-effects Poisson regression model, we compared admission characteristics across three periods: (a) March 1–June 30, 2018 and 2019; (b) March 1–April 30, 2020 (i.e., lockdown); and (c) May 1–June 30, 2020 (i.e., post-lockdown). Results: During the COVID-19 lockdown, there was a 41% reduction (IRR = 0.59; p < 0.001, CI: 0.45–0.79) in psychiatric admissions in the enrolled GHPWs with respect to the 2018 and 2019 control period. Conversely, admission rates in the post-lockdown period were similar to those observed in the control period. Notably, a consistent and significant reduction in psychiatric hospitalizations of older patients (aged >65 years) was observed in the lockdown (40%; IRR = 0.60; 95% CI: 0.44–0.82) and post-lockdown (28%; IRR = 0.72; 95% CI: 0.54–0.96) periods. Long-stay admissions (>14 days) increased (63%; IRR = 1.63; 95% CI: 1.32–2.02) during the lockdown and decreased by 39% thereafter (IRR = 0.61; 95% CI: 0.49–0.75). A significant 35% increase in patients reporting suicidal ideation was observed in the post-lockdown period, compared to the rate observed in the 2018 and 2019 control period (IRR = 1.35; 95% CI: 1.01–1.79). Conclusion: The COVID-19 lockdown was associated with changes in the number of psychiatric admissions, particularly for older patients and long-stay hospitalizations. Increased admission of patients reporting suicidal ideation in the post-lockdown period merits special attention. Further studies are required to gain insight into the observed phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110304
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.


  • COVID-19
  • Emergency psychiatric department
  • General hospital psychiatric ward
  • Hospital admission
  • Psychiatric hospitalization
  • Suicidality


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