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Offending linked to early death

06 Gorffennaf 2009

Male raising fist at other male

Boys and young men who offend or act anti-socially run a higher risk of death or disability in middle age, a new study has shown.

The University’s Violence and Society Research Group analysed data about the health of a group of London males, including offenders and non-offenders, over a 40 year period.

They found significant links between early offending and death or disability by the age of 48. Such links were found in anti-social boys aged 8 to 10, boys aged 10-18 with criminal convictions, and men aged 27-32 with any kind of record of anti-social behaviour.

Higher death rates by the age of 48 were found in men with convictions. Causes included cancer, stroke, bronchopneumonia and motor neurone disease. While many of the men stopped offending after adolescence, the link with poor health lasted into middle age.

The worst health outcomes were strongly linked with those whose family circumstances created a high risk of offending at a young age. Young men who showed impulsive behaviour at age 18 also had higher death and disability rates.

The team’s paper, Impact of antisocial lifestyle on health: chronic disability and death by middle age, is published this month in the Journal of Public Health.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, Director of the Violence and Society Research Group and leader of the study, said: "This is the first time that youth offending has been linked to premature death and chronic disability in middle age. Some of the causes of death and injury, such as drug overdose and accidents while drunk, have obvious links to an anti-social lifestyle. However, the link is not so clear-cut with other illnesses and further research is needed to explain this.

"There was also strong evidence of poor health being linked to early risk factors for offending, such as poor parenting. This suggests that early intervention to break cycles of offending in families could also prolong life and prevent disability. Measures such as early parent training and pre-school education through nurse-family partnerships could improve health in middle age as well as having social and criminal justice benefits."

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