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Understanding the relationship between crime victimisation and mental health: A longitudinal analysis of population data


Author(s)Freeman, Karen and Nadine Smith
Title Understanding the relationship between crime victimisation and mental health: A longitudinal analysis of population data
Source Crime and Justice Bulletin, BOCSAR, May 2014, Number 177, pp 1-16
Date 2014
Document type Research report
Coverage Australia
Summary The aim of this study is to examine the relationship between crime victimisation and mental health in the Australian context. Data was sourced from the Australian Household, Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA), a national longitudinal Australian study. The sample used includes 110,671 records from 16,187 persons across the period 2002 to 2011. Across the 110,671 records there were 1,777 reports of violent victimisation and 5,068 reports of property crime victimisation. A number of control variables were used including age, gender, area of residence, socio-economic status, Indigenous status, personal stressors and social support. Results indicate that the trauma of being a victim of violent crime leads to a decline in mental health, in both female and male victims. With all other characteristics constant, females reported a larger decrease in their mental health than males if they changed from being a non-victim in one year to being a victim of violent crime in a subsequent year. There was no evidence that becoming a victim of property crime has a detectable impact on mental health for either females or males. The fixed effects models demonstrate that victims of violence suffered significant reductions in their mental health following their experience of a crime that could not be attributed to pre-existing factors such as a history of child abuse. Some of the limitations of the study were that the wording of the victimisation questions differs from other crime surveys in Australia and is vague and specific types of physical violence such as sexual assault or domestic violence cannot be examined. Challenges for service providers are identified, including the need to reach out and engage with individuals who may be experiencing difficulties after becoming a victim of crime. It is suggested that information about victim support services may need to be distributed through additional channels, such as general practitioners, psychologists and community health workers.
Keywords Victimisation; violent crime; property crime; longitudinal study; mental health; HILDA
Topic Psychological effects and treatment