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Depression and violence: a Swedish population study

By Seena Fazel, Achim Wolf, Zheng Chang, Henrik Larsson, Guy M Goodwin and Paul Lichtenstein


SummaryBackgroundDepression increases the risk of a range of adverse outcomes including suicide, premature mortality, and self-harm, but associations with violent crime remain uncertain. We aimed to determine the risks of violent crime in patients with depression and to investigate the association between depressive symptoms and violent crime in a cohort of twins.MethodsWe conducted two studies. The first was a total population study in Sweden of patients with outpatient diagnoses of depressive disorders (n=47 158) between 2001 and 2009 and no lifetime inpatient episodes. Patients were age and sex matched to general population controls (n=898 454) and risk of violent crime was calculated. Additionally, we compared the odds of violent crime in unaffected half-siblings (n=15 534) and full siblings (n=33 516) of patients with the general population controls. In sensitivity analyses, we examined the contribution of substance abuse, sociodemographic factors, and previous criminality. In the second study, we studied a general population sample of twins (n=23 020) with continuous measures of depressive symptoms for risk of violent crime.FindingsDuring a mean follow-up period of 3·2 years, 641 (3·7%) of the depressed men and 152 (0·5%) of the depressed women violently offended after diagnosis. After adjustment for sociodemographic confounders, the odds ratio of violent crime was 3·0 (95% CI 2·8–3·3) compared with the general population controls. The odds of violent crime in half-siblings (adjusted odds ratio 1·2 [95% CI 1·1–1·4]) and full siblings (1·5, 95% CI 1·3–1·6) were significantly increased, showing some familial confounding of the association between depression and violence. However, the odds increase remained significant in individuals with depression after adjustment for familial confounding, and in those without substance abuse comorbidity or a previous violent conviction (all p<0·0001). In the twin study, during the mean follow-up time of 5·4 years, 88 violent crimes were recorded. Depressive symptoms were associated with increased risk of violent crime and a sensitivity analysis identified little difference in risk estimate when all crimes (violent and non-violent) was the outcome.InterpretationRisk of violent crime was increased in individuals with depression after adjustment for familial, sociodemographic and individual factors in two longitudinal studies. Clinical guidelines should consider recommending violence risk assessment in certain subgroups with depression.FundingWellcome Trust and the Swedish Research Council

Publisher: Fazel et al. Open Access article distributed under the terms of CC BY. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Year: 2015
DOI identifier: 10.1016/S2215-0366(14)00128-X
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