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Are Radicalization and Terrorism Associated with Psychiatric Disorders? A Systematic Review

The risk factors for radicalization and terrorism represent a key research issue. While numerous data on the sociological, political, and criminological profiles of radicalized people and terrorists are available, knowledge about psychiatric disorders among these populations remains scarce and contradictory.

Method

We conducted a systematic review of the literature regarding psychiatric disorders among both radicalized and terrorist populations.

Results

We screened 2,856 records and included a total of 25 articles to generate a complete overview. The vast majority of studies were of poor methodological quality. We assessed three population groups: people at risk of radicalization, radicalized populations, and terrorist populations. The results showed important variations in the prevalence rates of psychiatric disorders depending on the study population and methodology. People at risk of radicalization have been reported to have depressive disorders, but contradictory findings exist. Psychiatric disorders range from 6% to 41% in the radicalized population and from 3.4% to 48.5% among terrorists. Among terrorists, psychiatric disorders are more frequent for lone-actor terrorists than for those in groups.

Conclusion

We were not able to identify a significant association between radicalization, terrorism, and psychiatric disorders in our systematic review. However, some research suggests high rates of psychiatric disorders in subgroups of radicalized people and lone-actor terrorists. Further studies using standardized psychiatric assessment methods are urgently needed.

Read the report at the Journal of Psychiatric Research

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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