Heart rate could be key to why more criminals are men

A new study found a connection between lower heart rates and the crime rate, linking men’s lower resting heart rate with the fact that they commit crimes in far greater numbers than women.

More than 93 percent of federal prisoners are men, according to March statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In Ohio 91.5 percent of 50,362 of state prisoners are men and 8.5 percent are women, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

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The new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania published in the April edition of Criminology used data from the Mauritius Child Health Project, which studied 894 people from that island nation.

Heart rates were tested at age 11 and criminal histories at age 23 were collected. The study found that 11 year old girls had higher resting heart rates than boys and that by age 23 men had committed a greater number of crimes.

Researchers, including Olivia Choy and Adrian Raine, said the higher rate of criminal offenses by males “has been found across time, cultures, and data sources.” They said other studies show that children as young as 17 months old show gender differences in anti-social behavior.

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“This study is the first to produce results documenting that lower heart rates in males partly explain their higher levels of offending,” wrote the researchers. “Our findings complement traditional theoretical accounts of the gender gap and have implications for the advancement of integrative criminological theory.”

Even though the findings do not “document causality” or show that low heart rate accounts entirely for the gender gap, the researchers said theirs is the first study to show the relationship between heart rate and crime.

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