Young men who are members of a gang suffer from high levels of mental disorders, researchers from Queen Mary, University of London found.

Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London, found that young men who are members of a gang suffer high levels of psychiatric illness that seriously affect their mental health. This is the first study to look into whether gang violence has any psychiatric effects.

In the U.K. one percent of the male population are gang members. This number goes up to 8.6 per cent in the London borough of Hackney, where one in five black men are gang members.

The study looked at 4,664 men in Britain, aged between 18 and 34. A survey was conducted that measured psychiatric illness, violence and gang membership. Most participants belonged to areas with high gang membership, lower social classes and came from places with a higher than average population of ethnic minority residents. Among the participants, 70.4 percent said they had not indulged in any act of violence for the past five years. Another 27.3 percent admitted to assaulting another person or being involved in a fight during that same period while 2.1 percent admitted to being a part of a gang currently.

Researchers observed that most of the men who admitted to being violent or part of a gang were younger, born in the UK and more likely to be unemployed. Such men were also more likely to suffer from mental disorders and avail psychiatric help than non-violent men.

Violent ruminative thinking, violent victimization and fear of further victimization were significantly higher in gang members, which led to high levels of psychosis and anxiety disorder in gang members.

"It is probable that, among gang members, high levels of anxiety disorder and psychosis were explained by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the most frequent psychiatric outcome of exposure to violence. However this could only partly explain the high prevalence of psychosis, which warrants further investigation," Professor Jeremy Coid, Director of the Forensic Psychiatry Research Unit at Queen Mary, and lead author of the paper, said in a press statement. "With street gangs becoming increasingly evident in UK cities, membership should be routinely assessed in young men presenting to healthcare services with psychiatric illness in urban areas with high levels of gang activity."

Authors of the study also noted that the high level of suicidal tendencies among gang members could be because of their psychiatric illness.

The research is published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry.