Trauma, Stress, Health, and Mental Health Issues Among Ethnically Diverse Older Adult Prisoners

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The United States’ older adult prison population is growing rapidly. This study identifies and describes important psychosocial characteristics, particularly trauma, life-event stressors, health, mental health, and substance abuse, among older adults in prison. Data were collected using case record reviews of 114 prisoners aged 55 or older in the New Jersey Department of Corrections. Findings revealed that the study participants are a diverse group with varied psychosocial issues and needs, including trauma and stress histories, substance use, and health and mental health issues. Most had childhood or adult trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse. Family problems were common in childhood and adulthood. Understanding the problems and needs of older adult prisoners may help improve practice, promote advocacy, and prompt research that can enhance the quality of life of this population.