Vol. 5, No. 2, 1999 Page 3&6

T3 levels: marker for persistent criminality?

Two Swedish studies suggest that variations in thyroid hormone levels are associated with delinquency, psychopathy, and a severe form of alcoholism.

In 1996, P. O. Alm and colleagues examined levels of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in two groups: adults who had been identified as delinquents at age 15, and a group of control subjects. At the time of the study, both groups s were between the ages of 38 and 46. The researchers found that delinquents whose criminal behavior had persisted into adulthood had higher mean T3 levels than other delinquents or controls. Analysis showed, the researchers say, that “former juvenile del linquents with T3 levels above the mean level found in the controls were registered for criminality 3.8 times more often than juvenile delinquents with T3 levels below the mean level found in the control group.”

More recently, E. G. Stalenheim and colleagues measured serum levels of T3 and free thyroxine (FT4) in 61 nonpsychotic men undergoing forensic psychiatric examinations, and in 66 control subjects. The researchers report that elevated T3 levels were relate ed to type II alcoholism (a severe form of alcoholism often linked to antisocial behavior), psychopathy, criminality, and “cluster B” personality disorders (antisocial, narcissistic, histrionic and borderline personality disorders). Serum levels of FT4 we ere negatively correlated to these behaviors and disorders.

“The results indicate an intimate relationship between T3 and FT4, and abuse and antisocial behavior,” the researchers say. “They emphasize the importance of further studies on T3 as a biological marker for abuse, social deviance, and repeated violent beh havior.”


“Serum levels of thyroid hormones as biological markers in a Swedish forensic psychiatric population,” E. G. Stalenheim, L. von Knorring, and L. Wide, Biological Psychiatry, Vol. 43, No. 10, May 15, 1998, pp. 755-761. Address: E. G. Stalenheim, Dep partment of Forensic Psychiatry, Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden.


“Criminality and psychopathy as related to thyroid activity in former juvenile delinquents,” P. O. Alm, B. af Klinteberg, K. Humble, J. Leppert, S. Sorensen, R. Tegelman, L. H. Thorell, and L. Lidberg, Acta Psychiatr Scand, Vol. 94, No. 2, August 1 1996, pp. 112-117. Address: P. O. Alm, Department of Clinical Neuroscience and Family Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Huddinge, Sweden.

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