A new study has found that a young man’s heart rate can predict whether or not he’s going to commit a violent crime later in life.
A team of researchers came to this conclusion after looking at a little over 700.000 male subjects, all age 18, all from Sweden. They recorded their heart rates and blood pressure levels and saw that the subjects who had a low heart rate during their teen years, had an increased risk of committing a violent crime in their adult years.
But this does not mean that the future is set in stone. Antti Latvala, study author and postdoctoral researcher from the University of Helsinki (Finland), the department of public health, gave a statement to Health Day saying that “It is important to stress that the vast majority of men who have low resting heart rates do not commit crimes”.
Latvala and his colleagues followed their subjects for up to 35 years. High heart rates were defined by them as being 83 beats per minute or greater, while low heart rates were defined by them as being 60 beats per minute or less.
About 139.500 subjects had a high heart rate, and almost 132.600 had a low heart rate and a 39 percent (39%) higher risk of being convicted for committing one or more violent crimes, as well as a 25 percent (25%) increased chance of being convicted for committing one or more nonviolent crimes.
The results stayed the same even after the researchers considered control factors such as physical condition, cardiovascular issues, cognitive variables, and socioeconomic variables.
Violent crimes were described by the research team as being murder, kidnapping, assault, rape and robbery. Nonviolent crimes were described by the research team as being theft, drug dealing and traffic violations. The team found out which subjects committed violent and nonviolent crimes by consulting Sweden’s crime register.
Latvala explained that he and his colleagues conducted follow up analyses to look at “the association with specific types of crime”, and noticed that “low resting heart rate was a stronger predictor of severe violent criminality than of less severe violence”.
Subjects with a low heart rate also had a higher risk of experiencing assaults and accidents, car crashes, falls and poisonings.
The new study seems to back up earlier studies which have shown that kids and teens with low heart rates tend to exhibit antisocial behavior.
Field experts generally believe that low heart rates point at chronically low levels of psychological arousal. This causes some people to search for more stimulating experiences. Another theory is that low heart rates are a sign that the individuals have weaker responses to stress stimuli. This in turn leads to fearless and risky behaviors.
Latvala believes that the next logical direction for researchers is to investigate the biological mechanisms that determine antisocial behavior. He also indents to conduct experiments and quasi-experiments where he can test different hypotheses related to why low heart rates may lead to antisocial behavior.
The findings were published earlier this week, on Wednesday (September 9, 2015), in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
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