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Crime Linked to Higher Death Rates

Update Date: Nov 06, 2013 05:52 PM EST

Don't do the crime if you want more time. New research reveals that people with criminal records have significantly higher mortality rates than those with no criminal record.

For example people with drug-related criminal records in Norway have a mortality rate that can be up to 15 times higher than people with no criminal record. Those with a criminal record of driving under the influence of alcohol also have significantly shortened life spans compared to the overall population.

"Our findings are surprising, because Norway is well-known for its egalitarianism," lead researcher Vegard Skirbekk said in a news release

However, Skirbekk and his team found that the mortality rate for criminal offenders in Norway was as high or higher than in many other European countries, as well as the United States.

"This study suggests that under the surface of Norway's egalitarian society, stark inequality still exists," Skirbekk said.

Previous studies found that people with criminal records are more likely to have had substance abuse problems, which is associated with higher mortality rates. However, previous studies of criminal records and mortality had not distinguished between drug use and other lifestyle risks in explaining differing mortality rates.

The latest study confirms that drug and alcohol use plays a significantly role in the higher mortality rates among convicted criminals. People imprisoned once for use or possession of drugs had a mortality risk that was eight times higher than those with no criminal record. Researchers also found that those imprisoned more than twice for drug-related offenses had a relative mortality risk of 10 to 13 times higher than those with no criminal record. Researchers noted that these differences were even higher for women.

The study revealed that prisoners who did not have drug abuse problems had a mortality rate that was significantly lower than those who substance abuse problems. However, their mortality rate was nearly twice as high compared to the people with no criminal record.

"Mortality is an excellent measure of inequality. While other measures such as income and education can be incomplete or subjective, mortality is precise," Skirbekk concluded.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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