The findings were published in the paper, “Life-Course Persistent Antisocial Behavior and Accelerated Biological Aging in a Longitudinal Birth Cohort”.
A groundbreaking study has revealed a correlation between antisocial behaviour and accelerated biological ageing.
Individuals with a persistent history of antisocial behaviour were discovered to be biologically older by an average of 4.3 years at the age of 45 compared to their less antisocial counterparts.
Antisocial behaviour, characterised by a chronic violation of social norms and lack of empathy or remorse, often includes deceit, aggression, theft, violence, lying, and exploitative behaviour.
While these patterns typically peak in late adolescence and decrease after the age of 29, it appears that the long-lasting negative impacts on health persist well into adulthood.
These revelations come from an analysis of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, comprehensive longitudinal research conducted in New Zealand.
The study team, led by Stephanie Langevin, set out to uncover the potential reasons for common health issues found in individuals with a history of antisocial behaviour. They hypothesised that these individuals might be ageing faster than their peers, which led them to investigate the participants’ biological age.
Unlike chronological age, biological age provides a measure of an individual’s physiological and functional wellbeing, taking into account factors such as genetics, lifestyle choices, and overall health.
This age can be determined using a variety of biomarkers and physiological parameters, including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, lung function, and hormone levels.
The study involved analysing data from over a thousand participants, tracking them from the age of 3 until 45.
These participants were divided into four groups based on their levels of antisocial behaviour: life-course persistent antisocial behaviour, adolescence-limited, childhood-limited, and low antisocial behaviour life trajectory. The researchers then evaluated the biological age of these groups using 19 different biomarkers.
The results were striking.
The group with life-course persistent antisocial behaviour aged 1.17 biological years for each calendar year, accumulating an extra 4.3 years of biological ageing by the age of 45. This group also showed poorer social hearing and balance, slower gait speed, and lower cognitive functioning.
Even after accounting for other variables like childhood health, socioeconomic status, and adult health, the association between antisocial behaviour and accelerated ageing persisted. These individuals were also perceived to look the oldest when facial age was evaluated.
The researchers noted, “Monitoring of individuals who engage in antisocial behaviours for signs of accelerated ageing may have the potential to reduce health inequalities and improve offenders’ lives.
Furthermore, study results suggest that juvenile and adult detention centre-based health-promoting programmes targeting modifiable health-risk behaviours may have the potential to prevent offenders from becoming high-need/high-cost health services users.”
The study, though vital to the scientific understanding of the links between ageing and behaviour, has its limitations.
All participants were New Zealanders from a single settlement and born within a one-year period, which means the findings may not necessarily apply to other cultural or birth groups. The study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.