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General hospitals and the severely mentally ill: changing patterns of diagnosis
Am J Psychiatry 1991;148:727-732.
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE:The author's goal is to determine whether there has been a recent change in the number and proportion of severely ill psychiatric patients treated in general hospitals. METHOD: He analyzed the discharge data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey for the years between 1970 and 1987, focusing particularly on the discharges of patients with psychiatric versus nonpsychiatric diagnoses. The number and proportion of discharges of patients with psychiatric diagnoses in four major diagnostic groups (depression, bipolar spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and other psychoses) were determined. RESULTS: Between 1970 and 1987, discharges of patients with psychiatric diagnoses from general hospitals increased by a factor of 0.8. The percentage of discharges of patients with the diagnoses of depression (18.0%-22.7%), schizophrenia (9.4%-13.6%), and paranoid or other nonorganic psychoses (3.1%-4.0%) remained relatively constant. The percentage of discharges of patients with the diagnosis of nondepressed bipolar disorder increased from 0.6% in 1970 to 3.2% in 1987. CONCLUSIONS: Although there has been a recent absolute increase in the number of general hospital patients with severe psychiatric diagnoses, the increase has been tempered by a concomitant increase in the number of patients with nonsevere diagnoses. Changes in classification systems (DSM-II or ICDA- 8 to DSM-III or ICD-9-CM) and questions regarding the rigor with which the nosologic changes have been incorporated into practice complicate the interpretation of these findings.

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