Feeling safe at home and in the neighbourhood

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Safety is one of the key factors that neighbourhood regeneration programmes would hope to impact upon. Indeed, safe communities is one of the outcomes sought by regeneration policy in Scotland, with feelings of safety comprising one of the performance indicators used to measure policy progress.

Feeling safe is also an important influence upon people’s mental health. In our earlier work, we have shown strong associations between feelings of safety and mental wellbeing among participants in the study, as well as a higher likelihood of experiencing loneliness among those people who feel unsafe in their neighbourhood.

Therefore, it is important to understand who feels safe and to identify which characteristics of the people themselves, and of their homes and neighbourhoods, contribute to this sense of safety. From time to time, we hear in the media about social groups who feel unsafe in various parts of the UK, including for example teenage girls, teenagers in general, and older women. Given the importance of feeling safe for the achievement of other health and wellbeing outcomes, we have examined who feels safe in deprived communities in Glasgow, and what factors are associated with this.

For this study, we have used the GoWell longitudinal data from Wave 2 (2008) to Wave 3 (2011) to examine how people move over time towards feeling ‘very safe’, or how they remain feeling ‘very safe’ over the years. We do this separately for both feelings of safety at home, and feelings of safety walking around the neighbourhood alone at night.

Five groups of factors were examined for their associations with feeling safe over time: personal characteristics of the respondents, including their experience of a number of life events; the location they live in, within the types of areas studied in GoWell; community variables including measures of social support, social connections and trust in neighbours; perceptions of empowerment in relation to housing and neighbourhood services; and respondents’ ratings of the quality of local services and amenities. In addition, we test the relationship between indoor and outdoor safety.

The results are available in a recently published academic article entitled “There goes the fear”: feelings of safety at home and in the neighbourhood: the role of personal, social and service factors, published in the Journal of Community Psychology.