Published: 10-09-2015 10:53 | Updated: 11-09-2015 09:52

Low resting heart rate associated with increased violent criminality

A low resting heart rate in late adolescence is associated with increased risk for violent criminality in men later in life, according to a new study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet and University of Helsinki, Finland. The findings are being published online in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Low resting heart rate (RHR) has been viewed either as an indicator of a chronically low level of psychological arousal, which may lead some people to seek stimulating experiences, or as a marker of weakened responses to aversive and stressful stimuli, which can lead to fearless behaviour and risk taking. However, not much is known about RHR as a predictor of severe violence. A better understanding of individual-level biological risk factors in the cause of violence could help prevention and intervention efforts.

In the current study, the research team examined the association of RHR in late adolescence to predict violent criminality later in life using data on 710,264 Swedish men born from 1958 to 1991 with up to 35.7 years of follow-up. RHR and blood pressure were measured at mandatory military conscription testing when the men were an average age of 18 years old. There were 40,093 men convicted of a violent crime during nearly 12.9 million person-years of follow-up.

Beats per minute

The researchers found that compared with 139,511 men with the highest RHR (greater than or equal to 83 beats per minute), the 132, 595 men with the lowest RHR (less than or equal to 60 beats per minute) had a 39 percent higher chance of being convicted of violent crimes and a 25 percent higher chance of being convicted of nonviolent crimes when the analysis models accounted for an assortment of variables.

The study was supervised by Drs Paul Lichtenstein and Henrik Larsson at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, and funded with grants from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, the Swedish Research Council, the Academy of Finland, the Alfred Kordelin Foundation, and the European Union Seventh Framework Programme. This news article is and edited version of a press release from JAMA Network.


A Longitudinal Study of Resting Heart Rate and Violent Criminality in More Than 700 000 Men
Antti Latvala, Ralf Kuja-Halkola, Catarina Almqvist, Henrik Larsson, Paul Lichtenstein,
JAMA Psychiatry, published online September 09, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1165