Association between fear of crime and mental health and physical functioning

Am J Public Health. 2007 Nov;97(11):2076-81. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2006.097154. Epub 2007 Sep 27.


Objectives: Studies have reported an inverse association between fear of crime and subjective mental and physical health. We investigated the direction of causality and the curtailment of physical and social activities as a possible mediating pathway.

Methods: We analyzed data from 2002 to 2004 of the Whitehall II study, a longitudinal study of more than 10 000 London-based civil servants aged 35 to 55 years at baseline.

Results: Fear of crime was associated with poorer mental health, reduced physical functioning on objective and subjective indicators, and lower quality of life. Participants reporting greater fear were 1.93 (95% confidence interval [CI]=1.55, 2.41) times as likely to have depression as those reporting lower fear of crime and had lower mental health scores (0.9 points on the Medical Outcomes Survey Short Form 36; 95% CI=0.4, 1.3). They exercised less, saw friends less often, and participated in fewer social activities compared with the less fearful participants. Curtailed physical and social activities helped explain the link between fear of crime and health.

Conclusions: Fear of crime may be a barrier to participation in health-promoting physical and social activities. Public health practitioners should support fear-reduction initiatives.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Crime*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Employment
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Government
  • Humans
  • London / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Social Behavior
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom