4524.0 - In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, October 2013  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/10/2013   
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Contents >> Introduction


Mental health and crime are two major areas of social concern for the Australian community and government. According to the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey, 3 million Australians (13.6%) have a mental and behavioural condition, with the cost of supporting people with mental illness in Australia estimated to be around $28.6 billion a year (Nous Group/Medibank, 2013). According to the 2011-12 Crime Victimisation Survey, an estimated 1.1 million Australians (6.1%) aged 15 years and over were a victim of physical or threatened assault in the 12 months prior to survey, and of the 8.7 million households in Australia, approximately 421,600 (4.8%) were victims of an actual or attempted break-in. The cost of crime to the Australian economy is estimated to be nearly $36 billion a year (Rollings, 2008).

Research examining the link between mental health and crime has traditionally been focused on the mental health of offenders, and mental illness as a risk factor for offending. Whilst there has been less research devoted to the mental health of victims of crime, which is often centred on family and domestic violence, interest in this area is expanding. Experiences of crime can have a range of mental health consequences for victims (ABS, 2010). Conversely, some of the changes in emotional, cognitive, and behavioural functioning brought about by mental health problems may heighten a person’s risk of becoming a victim of crime (Biles, Braithwaite, & Braithwaite, 1979).

This article draws on Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2010 General Social Survey (GSS) data to examine the relationship between disability due to a mental health condition and crime victimisation, and how this relationship varies across different sociodemographic groups. Differences in the prevalence of disability due to a mental health condition were explored between the victim and non-victim populations within each sociodemographic group, and also between victim populations across the sociodemographic groups (refer to Appendix A for example).

Overall, the results of the analysis show that persons who have been a victim of crime are significantly more likely to have a disability due to a mental health condition than persons that have not been a victim of crime, although this varied across the different sociodemographic groups examined. Whilst the data is limited in its ability to offer insight into how these two variables are causally related, the findings represent an important first step in highlighting the link between crime victimisation and mental health.

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