Do improved structural surroundings reduce restrictive practices in psychiatry?

Astrid Harpøth, Harry Kennedy, Morten Deleuran Terkildsen, Bettina Nørremark, Anders Helles Carlsen, Lisbeth Uhrskov Sørensen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: There is sparse evidence that modern hospital architecture designed to prevent violence and self-harm can prevent restrictive practices (RP). We examine if the use of RPs was reduced by the structural change of relocating a 170-year-old psychiatric university hospital (UH) in Central Denmark Region (CDR) to a new modern purpose-built university hospital.

METHODS: The dataset includes all admissions (N = 19.567) and RPs (N = 13.965) in the self-contained CDR one year before and after the relocation of the UH. We compare RPs at the UH a year prior to and after relocation on November 16th (November 2017, November 2019) with RPs at the other psychiatric hospitals (RH) in CDR. We applied linear regression analysis to assess the development in the monthly frequency of RPs pre- and post-relocation and examine underlying trends.

RESULTS: At UH, RPs performed decreased from 4073 to 2585 after relocation, whereas they remained stable (from 3676 to 3631) at RH. Mechanical restraint and involuntary acute medication were aligned at both UH and RH. Using linear regression analysis, we found an overall significant decrease in the use of all restrictive practices at UH with an inclination of -9.1 observations (95% CI - 12.0; - 6.3 p < 0.0001) per month throughout the two-year follow-up. However, the decrease did not deviate significantly from the already downward trend observed one year before relocation. Similar analyses performed for RH showed a stable use of coercion.

CONCLUSION: The naturalistic features of the design preclude any definitive conclusion whether relocation to a new purpose-built psychiatric hospital decreased the RPs. However, we argue that improving the structural environment at the UH had a sustained effect on the already declining use of RPs, particularly mechanical restraint and involuntary acute medication.

Original languageEnglish
Article number53
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Systems
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Coercion
  • Mechanical restraint
  • Psychiatry
  • Restrictive practices
  • Structural safety


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