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The influence of concern about crime on levels of psychological distress in the former Soviet Union


Background Previous studies suggest that the fear of crime is associated with worse mental health, with social capital potentially having a mediating influence. However, no studies could be identified on this issue in countries of the former Soviet Union, despite them experiencing increasing rates of crime and profound social change. The aim of this study is to explore the relationship between concern about crime and levels of psychological distress in eight countries of the former Soviet Union.

Methods Cross-sectional surveys were conducted in eight former Soviet countries using a standardised questionnaire containing items on psychological distress and concern about five criminal activities. Regression analysis was used to investigate the association between concern about criminal activities and psychological distress. Separate regression models were run to explore the influence of social capital on this relationship.

Results The first model (excluding social capital) produced significant positive coefficients of association for all five types of criminal activity with psychological distress, with a range from 0.39 (95% CI 0.24 to 0.54) for suffering abuse because of nationality to 0.56 (95% CI 0.42 to 0.70) for being sexually molested. The second model (including social capital) also showed significant associations for all five criminal activities, but coefficients were slightly smaller.

Conclusion This study provides preliminary evidence of a relationship between fear of crime and psychological distress in the study countries, with possibly a small mediating influence of social capital. Further studies are required to explore the relationship between fear of crime, social capital and mental health in the region.

  • Mental health
  • Soviet Union
  • crime
  • social epidemiology
  • social capital
  • psychology distress
  • surveys ME

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