Fear of crime and the environment: systematic review of UK qualitative evidence

BMC Public Health. 2013 May 24;13:496. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-496.


Background: The fear of crime may have negative consequences for health and wellbeing. It is influenced by factors in the physical and social environment. This study aimed to review and synthesize qualitative evidence from the UK on fear of crime and the environment.

Methods: Eighteen databases were searched, including crime, health and social science databases. Qualitative studies conducted in the UK which presented data on fear of crime and the environment were included. Quality was assessed using Hawker et al.'s framework. Data were synthesized thematically.

Results: A total of 40 studies were included in the review. Several factors in the physical environment are perceived to impact on fear of crime, including visibility and signs of neglect. However, factors in the local social environment appear to be more important as drivers of fear of crime, including social networks and familiarity. Broader social factors appear to be of limited relevance. There is considerable evidence for limitations on physical activity as a result of fear of crime, but less for mental health impacts.

Conclusions: Fear of crime represents a complex set of responses to the environment. It may play a role in mediating environmental impacts on health and wellbeing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Crime / psychology*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Environment Design / statistics & numerical data*
  • Fear*
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment*
  • United Kingdom