Deinstitutionalization 1955-1970: patients go out feet first

(Sylvain Rousselot) #1


I do research on the historical statistics of American psychiatry, especially during the 1955-1970 period, the beginning of the antipsychotic era.

I would like to get feedback on my work, and if possible a collaboration, because I have no access to many US sources and my experience in documentary research is limited.

However, thanks to websites like, and, I was able to gather statistical data from various official or scientific publications.

Here’s what I found out:

1) from 1933 to 1969, admissions in state and county mental hospitals were always superior to discharges. It’s only from 1970 that the number of discharges becomes greater than the number of admissions.

2) From 1933 to 1974, the ratio of discharges to admissions is growing fairly regularly. No revolution appeared to take place in 1955: the trend continued as if nothing had happened.

(Edit: Confusion between admissions and discharges in general and in the hospitals)

  1. From 1945-1955 to 1958-1968 decades, mortality rate is increasing by 12,5%, from 8,21% to 9,24%. You can follow the mortality rate evolution from 1926 to 1980 on my chart.

So yes, the number of residents of state mental hospitals decreased between 1955 and 1970. But this was not due to the increase in the number of discharges, which was always lower than the number of admissions, but to the highest decennial mortality rate ever recorded.

Short charts:

Short tables:

Short bibliography:

Howard H (1983). Deinstitutionalization: The Data Demythologized. Hospital and Community Psychiatry, Vol. 34, No. 2, pdf page 4, Table 2. Retrived at

Bureau of the census. (1936-1961). Statistical Abstracts of the United States. Vol. 1936 to 1961. Retived at

Bureau of the census and NIMH. (1941-1954). Patients in psychiatic institutions. Vol. 1938 to 1950-1951. Washington: United States government printing office. Retived at text will be hidden

The diagnosis fiction : the psychoses war