Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

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

Karen Freeman and Nadine Smith

Crime and Justice Bulletin no. 177

Sydney, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, May 2014

Release Date:    16 June 2014

Full report [pdf, 813kb]


Analysing data from a longitudinal survey of the general public, this paper investigates whether being the victim of a crime can lead to poor mental health. It investigates whether the effect of victimisation on mental health is different for male and female victims and victims of property crime and violent crime.

Aim: To determine whether a change in crime victimisation status (from non-victim to victim) affects mental health.

Method: Fixed effects models were used to examine the effect of physical violence and property crime victimisation in the past year on future mental health. The sample pooled 110,671 records from 16,187 persons aged 15 years or older who participated in at least two waves of the Australian Household, Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA) survey between 2002 and 2011. The analysis controlled for all time-stable factors as well as a wide range of dynamic variables known to be associated with mental health (i.e., partner status, area of residence, labour force status, financial prosperity, ability to raise funds in an emergency, alcohol consumption, smoking status, physical activity, general health, social networks and number of life events).

Results: The analysis revealed that becoming a victim of violent crime results in a decrease in mental health. Females had a more pronounced decline in mental health after becoming a victim of violence compared with males. By contrast, there was no evidence that becoming a victim of property crime has a detectable impact on mental health for either females or males.

Conclusion: Being a victim of violent crime has an adverse effect on mental health. This effect is apparent for both male and female victims, however there is a greater effect of violent crime on women's mental health.

Keywords: Victimisation, violent crime, assault, property crime, burglary, theft, robbery, gender, longitudinal study, SF-36, mental health, population data, fixed effects model, HILDA.