Experience of crime impacts on the mental and physical health of victims, families and those witnessing or participating in criminal and anti-social behaviour. Fear of crime may also lead to negative impacts on an individual’s health and wellbeing and may be a barrier to individuals engaging in health improving activities, including outdoor activities (such as walking and cycling). 1

Conversely, perpetrators of crime are often exposed to a range of health risks which may increase their likelihood of committing a crime.  For example, crime and anti-social behaviour are often associated with drug and alcohol misuse, which is commonly linked to mental health issues.  The ‘Mental health and substance misuse’ JSNA chapter identifies the strong link between crime and substance misuse, with estimates indicating that a third or a half of all acquisitive crimes (such as burglary) are committed by offenders who use heroin, cocaine or crack cocaine; and half of all violent incidents are alcohol-related.

A survey of adult prisoners in England and Wales (sentenced to four year or less) conducted in 2005 and 2006 reported that: 2

  • 61% were identified as likely to have a personality disorder
  • 10% had a psychotic disorder
  • a third reported significant symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • 21% reported feeling that they needed help or support with their mental health condition
  • levels of psychosis, anxiety and depression, self-harm and suicidal attempts were considerably higher among female prisoners than males.

Youth crime and gang involvement can also have a detrimental impact on the wellbeing on those involved and it is likely that the link between gang membership and poor mental health works both ways. 3

Domestic violence, and other forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) can be a factor in the development of depression, anxiety and other mental disorders, while at the same time those with mental health problems are more likely to be involved in domestic violence (either as a victim or perpetrator). 4  Other health impacts of VAWG include sleep disturbance, self-harm, eating disorders, substance misuse and suicide. 5


  1. M. Stafford, T. Chandola and M. Marmot, “Association Between Fear of Crime and Mental Health and Physical Functioning,” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 97, no. 11, pp. 2076-2081, 2007
  2. D. Steward, “The problems and needs of newly sentenced prisioners: results from a national survey,” Ministry of Justice, 2008
  3. Public Health England and Centre for Public Health (Liverpool John Moore University), “The mental health needs of gang-affiliated young people. A briefing produced as part of the Ending Gang and Youth Violence programme,” London, 2015
  4. M. Barnish, “Domestic Violence: A Literature Review,” HM Inspectorate of Probation, 2004
  5. World Health Organization, “Understanding and addressing violence against women: health consequences,” 2012