Knowledge and cardiovascular disease risk perception from the perspectives of prisoners and staff in a Scottish prison: a qualitative study

Andrea R. M. Mohan, Patricia Thomson, Sally Haw, Stephen J. Leslie, Janet McKay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
70 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Prisoners have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to the general population. Knowledge and risk perception of CVD can influence engagement in preventative behaviours that lower an individual’s CVD risk. This paper aims to explore prisoners’ knowledge of CVD, and prisoners and staff’s perceptions of prisoners’ CVD risk.

Design/methodology/approach: This was a qualitative study in which semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 prisoners and 11 prison and National Health Services staff in a Scottish prison. Data were analysed thematically using the framework method.

Findings: Most prisoners had limited knowledge of CVD as they could not describe it or could only identify one or two risk factors or cardiovascular events. Both prisoners and staff viewed prisoners’ CVD risk as either pertaining to one individual, or pertaining to the general prisoner population. Unhealthy behaviours that were believed to increase CVD risk were linked to three perceived consequences of imprisonment: mental health problems, boredom and powerlessness.

Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to explore the CVD knowledge of prisoners, and perceptions of CVD risk from the perspectives of prisoners and prison staff. Findings from this study indicate that CVD education needs to be a priority for prisoners, addressing knowledge of CVD, its risk and risk perceptions. Additionally, the findings indicate that individual and socio-environmental factors linked to prisoners’ CVD risk need to be targeted to reduce this risk. Future research should focus on socio-environmental interventions that can lead to reducing the CVD risk of prisoners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-349
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Prisoner Health
Issue number4
Early online date21 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2022


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Education
  • Health behaviours
  • Health promotion
  • Knowledge
  • Risk perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)


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