Date: 01 Nov 2013

The Association Between the Fear of Crime, and Mental and Physical Wellbeing in New Zealand

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Abstract

Researchers have provided clear evidence that the fear of crime can lead to various mental health-related issues including anxiety and psychological distress. However, studies on the effects of fear of crime on physical health are limited. Adding to and extending this literature, we evaluated the association between fear of crime and mental and physical health outcomes in a new setting (New Zealand) and at a national scale. As an added contribution to the literature, we examined whether the fear of crime is independently associated with mental and physical wellbeing, regardless of neighbourhood crime rates. Using data from the New Zealand General Social Survey, the 2006 census and the New Zealand Police, we fitted linear and two-level hierarchical linear models regression models to assess the impact of fear of crime on mental and physical health, at varying stages of individual and area-level confounder adjustment. Even after adjusting for a number of individual- and area-level factors that are related to social inequalities in health in the country, a significant effect of increased fear of crime on lower mental and physical wellbeing was detected. We did not, however, detect significant independent effects for neighbourhood crime rates for either outcome. Our findings indicate that fear of crime, rather than recorded crime rates, was associated with detrimental mental and physical health outcomes. As such, efforts to not only reduce crime but perceived risk of crime could yield public health and social wellbeing benefits.