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 crime1 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 6°C 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 Mexico2 that found that in response to violent crime, women took steps to avoid the crime, while men appeared to "man up" and went 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.
Carol Propper , Professor of Economics at Bristol’s Centre for Market and Public Organisation and Imperial Business School, said: "These findings demonstrate 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."
The study, entitled ’Does Violent Crime Deter Physical Activity?’ by Katharina Janke, University of Bristol, Carol Propper, University of Bristol and Imperial College, and Michael A. Shields, Monash Univeristy in Australia, is published today [04 September 2013] by the University of Bristol’s Centre for Market and Public Organisation
1. The study focused on violent crime with injury which includes murder, manslaughter, knife attacks and aggravated assault.
2. Braakmann, N: 2012, How do individuals deal with victimization and victimization risk? Longitudinal evidence from Mexico, Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization 84(1), 335-344.
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at www.esrc.ac.uk
Active People Survey
The Active People Survey (APS) is commissioned by Sport England. s are spread evenly across the 12 months of each survey period and contain detailed measures of participation in physical recreation and sport undertaken by the individual for over 400 different activities. visit: www.sportengland.org/research/who-plays-sport/
These findings demonstrate 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.