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Changing levels of local crime and mental health: a natural experiment using self-reported and service use data in Scotland

Baranyi, Gergő; Cherrie, Mark; Curtis, Sarah E.; Dibben, Chris; Pearce, Jamie

Changing levels of local crime and mental health: a natural experiment using self-reported and service use data in Scotland Thumbnail


Gergő Baranyi

Mark Cherrie

Chris Dibben

Jamie Pearce


Background: This study contributes robust evidence on the association between mental health and local crime rates by showing how changing exposure to small area-level crime relates to self-reported and administrative data on mental health. Methods: The study sample comprised 112 251 adults aged 16–60 years, drawn from the Scottish Longitudinal Study, a 5.3% representative sample of Scottish population followed across censuses. Outcomes were individual mental health indicators: self-reported mental illness from the 2011 Census and linked administrative data on antidepressants and antipsychotics prescribed through primary care providers in the National Health Service in 2010/2012. Crime rates at data zone level (500–1000 persons) were matched to the participants’ main place of residence, as defined by general practitioner patient registration duration during 2004/2006, 2007/2009 and 2010/12. Average neighbourhood crime exposure and change in area crime were computed. Covariate-adjusted logistic regressions were conducted, stratified by moving status. Results: In addition to average crime exposure during follow-up, recent increases in crime (2007/2009–2010/2012) were associated with a higher risk of self-reported mental illness, among ‘stayers’ aged 16–30 years (OR=1.11; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.22), and among ‘movers’ aged 31–45 years (OR=1.07; 95% CI 1.01 to 1.13). Prescribed medications reinforced these findings; worsening crime rates were linked with antidepressant prescriptions among young stayers (OR=1.09; 95% CI 1.04 to 1.14) and with antipsychotic prescriptions among younger middle-aged movers (OR=1.11; 95% CI 1.01 to 1.23). Conclusion: Changing neighbourhood crime exposure is related to individual mental health, but associations differ by psychiatric conditions, age and moving status. Crime reduction and prevention, especially in communities with rising crime rates, may benefit public mental health.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 28, 2020
Online Publication Date Jun 5, 2020
Publication Date 2020-10
Deposit Date Jun 17, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jun 17, 2020
Journal Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Print ISSN 0143-005X
Electronic ISSN 1470-2738
Publisher BMJ Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 74
Issue 10
Pages 806-814
Public URL


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (418 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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