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Schizophrenia and offending: area of residence and the impact of social disorganisation and urbanicity

Abstract

It is well-documented that crime rates and the prevalence of mental illness are both higher in areas with pronounced levels of social disorganisation. Far less is known about the association of disadvantaged community conditions with criminal behaviour and mental illness. This study aimed to identify the influence of residential location (characterised by degrees of socioeconomic disadvantage, residential mobility, ethnic heterogeneity and internal inequality) on the prevalence of schizophrenia and incidence of arrests in urban and rural postcode areas of Western Australia between 1985 and 1996. It found that the socio-structural characteristics of an area were related to the incidence of arrest, the prevalence of diagnosed schizophrenia and the incidence of arrest of diagnosed schizophrenics. The results suggest that schizophrenia did not have a multiplier effect on arrest levels but that the same socio-structural characteristics that generated high arrest rates for individuals with schizophrenia also generated high arrest rates for the population as a whole. These findings have important implications for policy and program development in both criminal justice and mental health. They suggest that geographic areas characterised by high levels of social disorganisation require more investment in crime prevention, mental-health services and criminal justice responses.

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