Growing Old behind Bars: Health Profiles of the Older Male Inmate Population in the United States

Kathryn M. Nowotny, Alice Cepeda, Laurie James-Hawkins, Jason D. Boardman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objective: This study examines patterns of multimorbidity among elderly male inmates across four domains of health (chronic medical conditions, drug- and alcohol-related diseases, impairments, and mental and behavioral health) to understand the complex health care needs of this growing population. Method: We use the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities and Latent Class Regression Analysis to examine 22 health problems among 1,026 men aged 50 and older. Results: There are four groups of elderly male inmates: (a) relatively healthy (45.1%), (b) substance users with behavioral health issues (23.4%), (c) chronic unhealthy with impairments and violence/injury (23.6%), and (d) very unhealthy across all domains (7.9%). These groups have unique sociodemographic background and incarceration history characteristics. Conclusion: This study demonstrates the complexity of health for elderly inmates. Prison health should continue to be monitored to aid correctional and community health programs in understanding clinical risks, exposures, and health care needs for this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)935-956
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Aging and Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • aging
  • chronic illness
  • comorbidity
  • injuries
  • mental health
  • prisoners
  • prisons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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