12

Are people with depression more likely to commit murder than people without depression?

In Claims about Andreas Lubitz's mental health only serve to stigmatise depression, Pete Etchells writes

Depression does not make you want to kill people

I can’t believe I’m having to write this. “Why on Earth was he allowed to fly?”, Daily Mail? Because there’s no reason to suggest that people with depression – and again, we don’t know if Lubitz actually had depression at the time – are a risk for the wider population. More generally, it’s the other way around. A study in the Lancet Psychiatry last year found that people with mental illness in the UK were more likely to be victims of murder than people in the general population.

  • 5
    You are asking about murder, however this is alleged to have been a murder-suicide (and depression is said to be correlated with murder-suicide, in men). – ChrisW Mar 28 '15 at 0:25
  • 1
    @ChrisW I assume that murder-suicide is a category of murder, and also a category of suicide. I'm not strongly skeptical of the claim that people with depression are more likely to commit suicide (though I've heard that severely depressed people are not motivated enough to take actions resulting in suicide). – Andrew Grimm Mar 28 '15 at 1:24
  • OK, so if an answer is about murder-suicide then you won't object to that answer as being off-topic. – ChrisW Mar 28 '15 at 1:30
  • @ChrisW that'd be fine. – Andrew Grimm Mar 28 '15 at 3:48
  • 1
    Do you have a notable claim to back your question? What you are asking is the opposite of your quoted claim. BTW, you have to be careful to separate "depression" itself from other factors, such as social stigma, adverse effects from medical treatment, or other medical/mental conditions where depression may only be a symptom. – user3169 Mar 28 '15 at 4:51
13

It seems that people with depression are more likely to commit murder.

In this study, Homicide is strongly correlated to depression and not to mania, the authors concluded:

Typical manic episodes could be the cause of penal infractions, usually benign. In contrast, forensic studies show a close relationship between depression, suicide and homicide. Killers (16-28%) are often depressed when they commit a crime. In the UK and USA, 4-35% of killers commit suicide immediately after their crime.

In another study, The role of depression in couples involved in murder-suicide and homicide. , the authors concluded:

Twelve couples in cases of murder-suicide were compared to 24 couples in cases of homicide during the period 1978 to 1987 in Albuquerque, N.M. Data were obtained from police, the courts, hospital records, and interviews with friends and family of the deceased. The most striking findings were that perpetrators of murder-suicide were depressed (75%) and men (95%), while perpetrators of homicide were not depressed and one-half were women. The data indicate that the murder-suicide and homicide groups are two different populations.

As for recent studies, a new study suggested that people with depression might be more likely to commit a violent crime than those without depression.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 47,000 people in Sweden who were diagnosed with depression and followed for an average of three years. They were compared to more than 898,000 gender- and age-matched people without depression.

People with depression were five to six times more likely than those in the general population to harm others or themselves, according to the researchers at Oxford University in England.

  • In addition to your answer, this says "The statistics show that most murder-suicides happen in domestic settings, and involve a man and his spouse. Murder-suicides involving pilots or in gun massacres are, in fact, much, much rarer." – ChrisW Mar 28 '15 at 14:06
  • 10
    Because these cases all too often lead to calls to "lock them all up", and because harm others or themselves isn't really useful to answer the actual question, I think it's important to cite the actual figures from the last study you cite (which also seems to be the most cited study for the claim): conviction rates for violent offense (including threads and intimidation, not just homicide) (not-depressed vs depressed): 1.2% vs 3.7% for men, and 0.2% vs 0.5% for women (so there is actually more of a correlation between gender and violence than depression and violence). – tim Mar 29 '15 at 10:49
  • 4
    For anyone interested, the actual study can be found here. – tim Mar 29 '15 at 10:49
  • 1
    @tim: and if there were the only paper in the field... Alas it looks like a slight tweak in methodology can get your favorite result in such studies: psychology.stackexchange.com/questions/18794/… – Fizz Jan 2 '18 at 8:01
  • 1
    "Twelve couples in cases of murder-suicide ... perpetrators of murder-suicide were depressed (75%) and men (95%)" 75% of 12 is 3, which is an extremely small set to draw conclusions from. 95% of 12 is 11.4, which doesn't make any sense. – Acccumulation Jan 3 '18 at 1:22

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .