Whole blood serotonin relates to violence in an epidemiological study.

Journal Article (Clinical Trial;Journal Article)


Clinical and animal studies suggest that brain serotonergic systems may regulate aggressive behavior; however, the serotonin/violence hypothesis has not been assessed at the epidemiological level. For study of an epidemiological sample we examined blood serotonin, because certain physiological and behavioral findings suggested that it might serve as an analog marker for serotonergic function.


Whole blood serotonin was measured in a representative birth cohort of 781 21-year-old women (47%) and men (53%). Violence was measured using cumulative court conviction records and participants' self-reports. Potential intervening factors addressed were: gender, age, diurnal variation, diet, psychiatric medications, illicit drug history, season of phlebotomy, plasma tryptophan, platelet count, body mass, suicide attempts, psychiatric diagnoses, alcohol, tobacco, socioeconomic status, IQ, and overall criminal offending.


Whole blood serotonin related to violence among men but not women. Violent men's mean blood serotonin level was 0.48 SD above the male population norm and 0.56 SD above the mean of nonviolent men. The finding was specific to violence, as opposed to general crime, and it was robust across two different methods of measuring violence. Together, the intervening variables accounted for 25% of the relation between blood serotonin and violence.


To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that an index of serotonergic function is related to violence in the general population.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Moffitt, TE; Brammer, GL; Caspi, A; Fawcett, JP; Raleigh, M; Yuwiler, A; Silva, P

Published Date

  • March 1, 1998

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 43 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 446 - 457

PubMed ID

  • 9532350

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-2402

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0006-3223

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/s0006-3223(97)00340-5


  • eng