Friday, September 28, 2007

Depression and Perceptions of Likely Crime Victimization

Strong relationship between depression, quality of life, and fear of being a crime victimization (high for the first, low for the second, high for the third). As the article notes, the fear doesn’t have to (and usually doesn’t) bear any relationship to the reality of being a crime victim. Works either way.

The researchers then compared the results with data collected about their mental and physical health -- symptoms of anxiety and depression, physical function, and quality of life. After adjusting for age, gender, employment grade, length of residence and previous mental health status, researchers found that participants with a high fear of crime were 1.93 times as likely to exhibit symptoms of depression and 1.75 times as likely to exhibit symptoms of anxiety, than those reporting low fear of crime. These people exercised less, saw friends less often and participated in fewer social activities compared with less fearful participants.

Dr Stafford explains that: "Things that influence our behaviour influence our health. One behavioural response to fear of crime is avoidance, so in this case fear of crime may stop some people taking part in the physical and social activities that are so good for health and wellbeing. If you are fearful, you are less willing to go out socially and less inclined to take physical activity. This impacts heavily on people's mental health and overall quality of life, as well as having an impact on their physical health, albeit less pronounced. It seems likely that if we work to reduce fear of crime, we could actually improve people's health."

So there’s more at stake than just who gets audiences and votes when our media and politicians hype crime as a means of “winning.” They’re creating real harm and actual victims themselves, not that that will stop them, any more than these words of advice will:

Commenting on the findings, Professor Gloria Laycock, UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, said: "Research does suggest that irrespective of recorded crime levels, public perceptions are that crime is on the increase. Even though data from the British Crime Survey (BCS) shows that crime has fallen in the last decade, people believe that crime is rising -- around two in three people believe that crime nationally has increased in the last two years and two in five people think that crime in their local area has increased.

"It is very interesting that people's perceptions of overall crime remain out of kilter with the figures and that these perceptions could actually have a significant impact on health. We must do more to educate people about the realities of their vulnerability to crime, as well as taking action to reduce fear of crime on a local and national level. For example, we need to look at the ways in which crime is reported in the national and local press and be sure to avoid sensationalism."

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