Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Antidepressant use and violent crimes among young people: a longitudinal examination of the Finnish 1987 birth cohort
  1. Elina Hemminki1,
  2. Marko Merikukka2,
  3. Mika Gissler3,
  4. Kristian Wahlbeck4,
  5. Jukka Savolainen5,
  6. Tiina Ristikari2,
  7. Mikko Aaltonen6
  1. 1THL, Health and Social Care Systems, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Children, Adolescents and Families Unit, THL, Oulu, Finland
  3. 3Information Services, THL, Helsinki Finland
  4. 4Mental Health Unit, THL, Helsinki Finland
  5. 5Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  6. 6Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy, University of Helsinki, Helsinki Finland
  1. Correspondence to Professor Elina Hemminki, THL, National Institute for Health and Welfare, P. O. Box 30, Helsinki 00271, Finland; elina.hemminki{at}


Background The use of antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), has been questioned due to poor efficacy and safety. We examined whether young violent offenders were more likely antidepressant users prior to their first violent offence than other young persons.

Methods The study is a follow-up of children born in Finland in 1987 (n=59 120), linking national registers to each other using personal identity codes. Data on psychotropic drug use came from a register of reimbursed drugs and data on crimes from a register on court convictions (after the age of 14 years). Participants were followed until the age of 18 years, and for some analyses until the end of the follow-up (mean 21 years). To adjust for differences in background characteristics, regression analyses for antidepressant use were made, using the no-conviction group as the reference.

Results Proportions of young people convicted by the age of 18 years were: 5% of boys (1.7% for violent crimes) and 1% (0.5%) of girls. Antidepressant use (both overall and for SSRIs) prior to violent crime was more common among those convicted than among those without convictions. Among boys with repeated violent crimes, it was also more common than among boys with non-violent crimes. Adjustment for differences in background characteristics decreased the associations between antidepressant use and violent crime, but did not eliminate them.

Conclusions The results add further evidence for caution in prescribing antidepressants among young persons. It also calls for a reanalysis of violence measures in the original trial data.


Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors EH developed the idea, participated in the study design and wrote the first draft. MM carried out the analysis and commented on the manuscript. MG participated in the study design, commented on the manuscript. KW participated in the study design and commented on the manuscript. JS participated in the study design and commented on the manuscript. TR commented on the manuscript. MA participated in the study design, analysed the data, commented on the manuscript. All authors have seen and accepted the final version.

  • Funding The Academy of Finland, grant 129283/2008, Emil Aaltonen Foundation 2014, home institutes.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Ethical review board at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Extra data can be accessed via the Dryad data repository at with the doi:10.5061/dryad.hb34s.