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Int J Epidemiol. 2016 Apr;45(2):491-500. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyv340. Epub 2016 Jan 28.

Low resting heart rate is associated with violence in late adolescence: a prospective birth cohort study in Brazil.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, Postgraduate Program in Epidemiology, Universidade Federal de Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil,
Postgraduate Program in Epidemiology, Universidade Federal de Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil.
Departments of Criminology, Psychiatry, and Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PN, USA and.
Postgraduate Program in Epidemiology, Universidade Federal de Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil, Postgraduate Programme in Health and Behavior, Universidade Católica de Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil.



Youth violence is a major global public health problem. Three UK and Swedish studies suggest that low resting heart rate predicts male youth violence, but this has not been tested in other social settings nor for females.


A prospective, population-based birth cohort study was conducted in Pelotas, Brazil. Heart rate was measured using a wrist monitor at ages 11, 15 and 18 years. Violent crime and non-violent crime were measured at age 18 in self-reports and official records (N = 3618). Confounding variables were assessed in the perinatal period and at age 11, in interviews with mothers and children. Logistic regression was used to estimate associations between quartiles of heart rate at each age, and violent and non-violent crime at age 18, separately for males and females.


Lower resting heart rate was a robust correlate of violent and non-violent crime for males. Comparing males in the lowest and top quartiles of heart rate at age 15 years, adjusted odds ratios were 1.9 for violent crime [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.4-2.7] and 1.7 for non-violent crime (95% CI 1.1-2.6). For females, crime outcomes were associated only with low resting heart rate at age 18. Associations were generally linear across the four heart rate quartiles. There was no evidence that associations differed according to socioeconomic status at age 15.


Low resting heart rate predicted violent and non-violent crime for males, and was cross-sectionally associated with crime for females. Biological factors may contribute to individual propensity to commit crime, even in a middle-income setting with high rates of violence.


Heart rate; cohort study; crime; violence

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