Is crime caused by mental illness? Study says “yes”

In the light of recent terror attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand which left 50 people dead, a number of questions have been raised. The incident, though as unfortunate as it gets, has led people to ponder over issues relating to crime.

What leads to crime in the first place? Are criminals mentally challenged, people? Can there be any link identified between psychological health and violent activities?

The questions posed above have long been debated in the field of criminology. While several driving factors towards crime can be identified, mental illness happens to be one. It is now widely argued that criminals may be psychologically disabled people. In other words, their condition ultimately makes them commit acts of violence.

There is sufficient research to suggest that mental health does play a considerable role in crime. What is this link? Let us find out.

Mental Illness & Crime

A group of Danish criminologists and Australian psychiatrists got together to investigate the relationship between mental illness and crime. For the purpose of their study, they looked into the data of 2 million participants. The research was a comprehensive one that allows for viable conclusions to be drawn.

Scientists observed the behavior of the participants noting down any changes that might be noticeable. Among the participants were people who had some sort of history of mental illness. In addition to this group, a considerable number of charged convicts were also present. Subsequently, scientists wanted to examine whether mental illness in one way or the other can incite violent tendencies among individuals.

At the termination of the research, results were documented in JAMA Psychiatry. It was revealed that regardless of other external factors, people with any prevailing mental condition were more likely to subject themselves towards criminal activities. That being said, most criminals who were convicted suffered from some sort of psychological illness.

One interesting evaluation scientist drew from the study was that women were far more likely to commit crime than males. Why that is the case is currently being studied in great depth.

In addition to that, criminals who have had a history of mental illness were primarily diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The Takeaway

The findings of the research, as mentioned above, just provide a small glimpse of what criminologists are trying to investigate. Mental illness and crime were long believed to go side by side with each other. But critics have argued that at the same time it is important to account for other contributory factors.

It is certainly true that a considerable portion of criminals might be psychologically challenged. Yet, other socio-economic causes continue to hold a great deal of importance. Economic deprivation, social marginalization etc may also propel an individual to involve themselves in act of violence. Crime, therefore, is not caused by one particular reason, rather there are several contributory causes which need to be acknowledged.

That being said, there are some essential guidelines to take away from the discussion.

No psychological illness should ever be sidelined or trivialized as a “usual happening.” The consequences for the individual and society as a whole could be far more severe. As a subsequent result, patients with any mental disturbance should always be kept under supervision.


Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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