Bad Behavior as a Kid Linked to Early Death in Men

THURSDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- A history of juvenile delinquency raises a man's risk of dying or becoming disabled by the time he is 48 years old, according to U.K. researchers.

The findings are from a study that began following 411 South London boys who were 8 to 9 years old in 1961. Among those who at age 10 displayed antisocial behavior (such as skipping school or being troublesome or dishonest) and who also were convicted of a crime by the age of 18, one in six (16.3 percent) had died or become disabled by the time they turned 48.

That's nearly seven times higher than the one in 40 (2.6 percent) death or disability rate among men who stayed out of trouble when they were young, the study authors noted in their report in the December issue of the Journal of Public Health.

"We were surprised to see such a strong link between these early influences and premature death, and this indicates that things that happen in families at age 8 to 10 are part of a progression towards dying prematurely," study leader Jonathan Shepherd, director of the Violence and Society Research Group at Cardiff University in Wales, said in a news release from the journal's publisher.

"It was also surprising that the increase was not limited to substance abuse or other mental health problems known to be linked with an antisocial lifestyle, but included premature death and disability from a wide variety of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and cancer," Shepherd added.

"At this point, we don't know exactly why delinquency increases the risk of premature death and disability in middle age, but it seems that impulsivity -- or lack of self-control -- in childhood and adolescence was a common underlying theme," Shepherd said. "It may be that the stresses and strains of an antisocial lifestyle and having to deal with all the crises that could have been avoided with more self-control take their toll."

The finding "fits with the biological evidence of the effects of chronic stress on illness," he said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains conduct disorder in children and teens.

SOURCE: Journal of Public Health, news release, December 2009

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