On The Mental Elf, psychologist Laurence Palfreyman critically reviews a recent study that made global headlines, purporting to have found that depression made people three times as likely to commit violent crimes.
Palfreyman notes that the study only found a correlation between depression and crime, not a causal relationship. “Although this study seems reliable and valid, we have to be clear that it is only an association and doesn’t prove that depression causes people to commit crimes. This difference doesn’t seem to be something that is appreciated or grasped by the media and audiences.”
His analysis reveals that a significant percentage of the violent crimes in the study were committed by a small subgroup of depressed people who also had substance abuse issues. Substance abuse has long been identified as strongly linked to violence. He further notes that, “It is not clear if those with depression were recovered at the time they committed the crime or not.”
Depression to blame for violent crime? The curse of the headline writers (The Mental Elf, March 20, 2015)