An estimated 307,998 people were admitted to accident and emergency units for violence-related injuries, 10,879 fewer than in 2010.
The study shows that the previous two years’ worrying rise in violence against children appears to have reversed. It also reveals violence has fallen faster in Wales than in England since the 1990s, almost closing the gap between the two nations.
The annual survey is based on a structured sample of 42 Emergency Departments and Minor Injury Units across England and Wales. All units are certified members of the National Violence Surveillance Network run by the award-winning Violence and Society Research Group.
This year’s 4 per cent decrease is in line with consistent falls in the violence rate every year except one since the study began in 2001. There was a 5.3 per cent fall for men suffering serious violence-related injury and a 1 per cent fall for women, although male victims still outnumber females by about three to one. There was a 3.8 per cent fall in the most at risk age-group, aged 18 to 30, who make up almost half of all victims.
The previous two years have seen increases of 8 per cent and 22 per cent in injuries affecting children under 10. This year’s study shows the trend reversing, with a 14 per cent fall in child victims. Violence injuries were down in all age groups, except those over 51, who still make up only 1.1 per cent of all victims.
For the first time, the group has analysed separate violence trends for England and Wales. They found the rate of serious violence was consistently lower in England than in Wales between 1995 and 2009. Over the period, the average rate was 12.6 injuries per 1000 Welsh men and 7.6 for English men. However, while the trend has not fluctuated greatly in England, there has been a marked drop in Wales from 10.1 injuries per 1000 residents in 1997 to 5.7 in 2008. This narrowed the gap between the two nations from 5.2 per 1000 residents in 1997 to 0.4 in 2008
Professor Jonathan Shepherd, Director of the Violence and Society Research Group, said: “It is encouraging to see violence-related hospital admissions have continued their fall from their peak in the late 1990s. Falls in the most at-risk groups, aged between 11 and 30, are particularly promising. This continues a trend identified in 2010 and is likely to be linked to policing, community partnerships and public health interventions. We also welcome the reversal of violence-related harm to small children, which may well reflect Government efforts to tackle this problem.
“We are also pleased to see the substantial decline in violence in Wales over the past 15 years, narrowing the traditional gap with England. Reasons for the differences between the two countries are unclear, but are likely to be linked to divides in health and prosperity, as well educational, environmental and lifestyle influences. We are also unsure why Wales has shown a sharper fall, although community level violence prevention may have been more effective over a longer period than in England. For example, information sharing about violence hot-spots between hospitals and community partners was adopted by the Welsh Government before it became a UK Government commitment. However, the estimated violence-related injury rate for everyone in England and Wales is still too high at 5.59 per 1,000 residents, and we want to see this fall further.”
The annual violence study was introduced to bring clarity to conflicting established measures of violence trends using the British Crime Survey and police records. Records provided by the National Violence Surveillance Network have been shown to be reliable and objective measures. The study has shown year on year overall decreases in violence-related injuries requiring admission to accident and emergency units between 2001 and 2011, except 2008, when there was a 7 per cent increase.