Study Finds That Lower Resting Heart Rates of Men Contribute to the Gender Gap in Criminal Activity

It is well known that men are far more likely to participate in criminal activity, particularly violent crime, than women. A new study led by Olivia Choy while she was a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, found a correlation between the heart rate of 11 years olds and their propensity to be involved in violent and nonviolent crime by the age of 23.

Studies have shown that people with a low resting heart rate tend to seek stimulation to raise their level of arousal. In short, people with a low resting heart rate have low rates of fear and may be more likely to engage in antisocial behavior.

Dr. Choy says that “to commit a crime, you do need a level of fearlessness.” This is “why we see this relationship between low heart rate and antisocial behavior.”

Dr. Choy’s study concludes that the lower resting heart rate of men compared to women can explain between 5 and 17 percent of the gender gap in criminal activity.

The full study, “Explaining the Gender Gap in Crime: The Role of Heart Rate,” was published on the website of the journal Criminology. It may be accessed here.

After completing her Ph.D. in criminology at the University of Pennsylvania this spring, Dr. Choy has accepted a position as an assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study


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