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Violent crime has become a public health issue, not least because the needs of victims have been neglected in the criminal justice system. Since this group suffer more psychological distress than victims of accidents, we compared illness experience in 433 adult assault victims with paired victims of accidents in a case control study. In the 10 year period prior to injury, there was a significant excess of hospital contacts in the assault group in relation to trauma, elective surgery and drug abuse but not to other psychiatric or medical conditions. This spectrum of disorders constitutes a previously unrecognized syndrome in young adults, probably representing the manifestations of antisocial personality.