The use of mechanical restraint in Pacific Rim countries: an international epidemiological study.

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DOI: 10.1017/S2045796020001031


AIMS: The use of mechanical restraint is a challenging area for psychiatry. Although mechanical restraint remains accepted as standard practice in some regions, there are ethical, legal and medical reasons to minimise or abolish its use. These concerns have intensified following the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Despite national policies to reduce use, the reporting of mechanical restraint has been poor, hampering a reasonable understanding of the epidemiology of restraint. This paper aims to develop a consistent measure of mechanical restraint and compare the measure within and across countries in the Pacific Rim.

METHODS: We used the publicly available data from four Pacific Rim countries (Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States) to compare and contrast the reported rates of mechanical restraint. Summary measures were computed so as to enable international comparisons. Variation within each jurisdiction was also analysed.

RESULTS: International rates of mechanical restraint in 2017 varied from 0.03 (New Zealand) to 98.9 (Japan) restraint events per million population per day, a variation greater than 3000-fold. Restraint in Australia (0.17 events per million) and the United States (0.37 events per million) fell between these two extremes. Variation as measured by restraint events per 1000 bed-days was less extreme but still substantial. Within all four countries there was also significant variation in restraint across districts. Variation across time did not show a steady reduction in restraint in any country during the period for which data were available (starting from 2003 at the earliest).

CONCLUSIONS: Policies to reduce or abolish mechanical restraint do not appear to be effecting change. It is improbable that the variation in restraint within the four examined Pacific Rim countries is accountable for by psychopathology. Greater efforts at reporting, monitoring and carrying out interventions to achieve the stated aim of reducing restraint are urgently needed.

Journal Title

Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci



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Coercion; Pacific Rim; prevalence; restraint

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