Delinquency and mortality: A 50-year follow-up study of 1,000 delinquent and nondelinquent boys

Am J Psychiatry. 2000 Jan;157(1):96-102. doi: 10.1176/ajp.157.1.96.


Objective: It is well established that until age 40 years, delinquent individuals have roughly twice the mortality of nondelinquent individuals and that the excess deaths are largely due to accidents, violence, and substance abuse. The present study examined if the increased mortality of delinquent subjects continues until age 65 years and, if so, why.

Method: The authors followed 475 delinquent and 456 matched nondelinquent comparison boys from age 14 years until age 65 years.

Results: Thirteen percent (N=62) of the delinquent and only 6% (N=28) of the nondelinquent subjects died unnatural deaths. By age 65 years, 29% (N=139) of the delinquent and 21% (N=95) of the nondelinquent subjects had died from natural causes. In a univariate analysis, frequency of delinquency, abuse of alcohol, adult crime, dysfunctional home environment, and poor education were significantly related to death, especially to unnatural death. However, when delinquency and alcohol abuse were controlled by logistic regression, education, dysfunctional upbringing, and adult criminality made no further contributions to mortality.

Conclusions: Although delinquency is strongly associated with premature mortality, the etiological links remain unclear. Alcohol abuse and poor self-care in adulthood (e.g., infections or accidents) account for most of the modest variance in mortality that could be accounted for.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Life Style
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Sex Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology