Assessing the role of criminality in neighbourhood safety feelings and self-reported health: Results from a cross-sectional study in a Dutch municipality

Polina Putrik*, Ludovic Van Amelsvoort, Suhreta Mujakovic, Anton E. Kunst, J. A. M. Van Oers, Ijmert Kant, Maria W. Jansen, Nanne K. De Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

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Neighbourhood safety has repeatedly been shown to be associated with the health and well-being of the residents. Criminality is often seen as one of the key factors affecting neighbourhood safety. However, the relationship between crime, fear of crime and feelings of safety remains underexplored.

Data on socio-demographic, health and safety perceptions was extracted from the Maastricht municipality survey (the Netherlands) (n = 9656 adults) and merged with data on official neighbourhood crime rates from the Police Registry. Pearson correlation coefficients and multilevel logistic regression models were computed to assess the association between aspects of objective and perceived criminality, individuals’ feelings of safety and health.

The correlation between the police recorded crime and residents’ perceptions of the neighbourhood crime rates was weak (0.14–0.38), with the exception of violent crime (0.59), which indicates that other factors contribute to the perceptions of safety. In turn, the perception of higher rates of violent crime and more nuisance (on the scale 0–10) but not other types of crime or nuisance was positively associated with feeling unsafe (OR 1.27 [1.22;1.32] and 1.39 [1.33;1.46], respectively). Lower general feelings of safety at both the individual and neighbourhood level were consistently associated with worse self-rated health. Among different indicators of safety, the general feelings of safety had the most pronounced association with health, while subjective or objective measures of crime showed limited to no direct relationship with health.

Public health policies targeting safety as a social determinant of health should consider prioritizing areas of violent crime and nuisance to improve general feelings of safety. Further research is needed to understand which factors aside from criminality are driving residents’ feelings of safety.
Original languageEnglish
Article number920
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cities
  • Crime/statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnostic Self Evaluation
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Residence Characteristics/statistics & numerical data
  • Safety
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult
  • FEAR
  • Criminality
  • Perceived safety
  • Socio-economic factors
  • Neighbourhood health


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