These are the findings of a new study, led jointly by researchers at the University of Bristol, Imperial College Business School and Professor Michael Shields, from Monash University’s Centre of Health Economics, that examined the effects of violent crime on the physical activities of nearly a million adults.
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded research analysed data on 893,075 adults in 323 local authority areas in England and mapped this to police recorded violent crime offences over a six-year period to determine whether an increase in violent crime affects people’s decision to undertake physical activity.
The researchers focused on the impact a change in violent crime in the local area where an individual lives. They looked at walking as this is the most common and often only form of exercise adults do, it is important for health and is also most likely to be affected by an individual’s security concerns. The team also explored the effects of the 2011 England riots, which led to a sudden increase in crime, on physical activity.
After factoring in controls for weather, other socio-demographic factors, and physical features of the local area, the findings revealed an increase in local area violent crime from 25 to 75 per cent led to a reduction of four per cent in the number of days individuals walked for at least 30 minutes over a four-week period.
This adverse effect was equivalent to the same effect a six degrees celsius drop in average minimum temperature would have on deterring people from this type of exercise. The main negative effects of an increase in violent crime was on non-leisure walking such as walking to work or for daily activities rather than walking for leisure, which generally takes place outside an individual’s local area. Changes in crime were shown to have a larger impact on older post-retirement age adults and those without access to a car.
The biggest adverse effect was shown to be women’s response to the 2011 riots whereby they reduced their physical activities (excluding walking) by 30 per cent. However, in contrast, men were found to increase the amount of their physical activity. Interestingly, this ‘gender effect’ fits with a similar study in Mexico which found in response to violent crime, women took steps to avoid the crime, while men appeared to go out more.
Overall, the results indicate a negative effect an increase in violent crime has on the physical activity of the wider community through people’s increased concerns about their personal safety.
Professor Carol Propper, from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Market and Public Organisation, said the findings demonstrated the wider consequences of crime in society and the impact this has on adults’ participation in physical activity such as walking.
“These findings are important as policies that help reduce the amount of violent crime in society can have positive effects well beyond the direct effects of fewer victims of crime,” Professor Propper said.
For more information please contact Glynis Smalley, Monash Media & Communications +61 3 9903 4843 | 0408 027 848