Health

Depression linked to violent crime, study finds

Prison cell Image copyright PA

People with a depressive illness are three times more likely to commit a violent or sex crime than those in the general population, a study suggests.

The Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University examined the criminal records of 47,158 Swedish people after they were diagnosed with depression.

Some 3.7% of men and 0.5% of women had convictions - 1.2% of men and 0.2% of women in the general population did so.

The researchers say the issue has not been given enough attention by doctors.

The study, which is published in the Lancet, looked at convictions for sexual offences and crimes such as murder, assault and robbery.

'Considerable concern'

The findings on people with depression were compared to a sample of 898,454 people with no history of depression.

When the researchers took into account previous histories of violence, self-harm, psychosis, and substance misuse, they still found a link between depression and violent crime - although the risk was found to be smaller.

Lead author Prof Seena Fazel said: "We wanted to determine whether there was an increased risk of violence in individuals with clinical depression, and without other factors which are known to contribute to this risk.

"One important finding was that the vast majority of depressed persons were not convicted of violent crimes, and that the rates reported are below those for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and considerably lower than for alcohol or drug abuse.

"There is considerable concern about self-harm and suicide in depression," she added. "We demonstrate that the rates of violent crime are at least as high, but they don't receive the same level of attention in clinical guidelines or mainstream clinical practice."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the UK mental health charity Sane, also pointed out that it was very rare for people with depression to commit crime.

However, she said: "This study does however show how important it is for professionals not to ignore those strong feelings and make clear people can come to terms with how they feel and recover."

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