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No Significant Relationship Between Violent Crime and Mental Illness

I hope that, once and for all, the message is clear — someone who has a mental illness is at no greater risk for violent crime. So says a new study that looked at the rate of violent crime in over 8,000 people diagnosed with schizophrenia between 1973 and 2006, and a control group of 80,000 people from the general population of Sweden.

According to the new study published in JAMA, five percent of the general population was convicted of violent crime during this time period, compared to eight percent of those with schizophrenia and no substance abuse, which was not a statistically significant difference. These results echo previous research in the U.S. that has also found no significant relationship between mental illness and violence.

What the study did find was that the overrepresentation of individuals with schizophrenia in violent crime is almost entirely attributable to concurrent substance abuse. That means that you will only find a statistically significant increase in violent acts in people with mental illness when substance abuse is also present. (Not surprisingly, you will find the same association in people without mental illness too — alcohol and drugs make people do things they ordinarily wouldn’t do. So this association is not unique to people with a mental disorder.)

I’ve written about this issue time and time and time again, because the media often looks for a scapegoat to blame a random act of violence on the fact that someone had a mental disorder. Meanwhile, too often mainstream media fails to put these relationships into any type of context or proper perspective, making it seem like anyone with a mental illness is far more prone to violence than someone without one.

The research is clear. There’s now a sufficient body of empirical data showing that this relationship between mental illness and violence must be seen for what it is — an attempt to further discriminate amongst people with mental disorders and take from them their due process and dignity.

Read the full news article: Schizophrenia Does Not Influence Risk of Violent Crime

No Significant Relationship Between Violent Crime and Mental Illness

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). No Significant Relationship Between Violent Crime and Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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