"Safe Going": the influence of crime rates and perceived crime and safety on walking in deprived neighbourhoods

Phil Mason, Ade Kearns, Mark Livingston
Social Science & Medicine 2013, 91: 15-24
Few studies have simultaneously examined the relationship of levels of recorded crime, perceptions of crime and disorder, and safety from crime with rates of physical activity. We developed a series of multilevel ordinal regression models to examine these aspects in relation to self-reported neighbourhood walking frequency in a cross-sectional sample of 3824 British adults from 29 deprived neighbourhoods in Glasgow, UK. Perceptions of several serious local antisocial behaviours (drunkenness and burglary) and feelings of personal safety (feeling safe in the home and if walking alone in the local area at night) were consistently associated, respectively, with less and more frequent walking. Conversely, perceiving drug dealing or drug use as a serious problem was associated with walking more frequently. There was a small but significant association between walking frequency in neighbourhoods with higher recorded person crime (but not property crime) rates when considered in conjunction with other aspects of disorder and crime safety, although not when additionally controlling for sociodemographic, neighbourhood and community aspects. The magnitude of these objective and perceived crime-related effects is modest and features of the psychosocial environment and social cohesion (having a sense of progress from living in the neighbourhood, group participation and positively rating social venues), as well as health and personal income deprivation, may more strongly determine levels of neighbourhood walking. Nevertheless, physical activity benefits may accrue at the population level through provision of environments that are safer from crime. Our study also shows the importance to local walking of neighbourhood management, which reduces problems of disorder, and of social regeneration, which helps strengthen sense of community.

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