The prevalence and health implications of violence in impoverished communities in Johannesburg

DOI: 10.1080/10158782.2010.11441408
Author(s): Nisha NaickerEnvironment and Health Research Unit,, Angela MatheeEnvironment and Health Research Unit,, Brendon BarnesPsychology Department,, Shan NaidooSchool of Public Health Medicine,, Andre SwartFaculty of Health Sciences,


The experience of violent crime can have a signifcant impact on the physical and psychological well-being of victims and their families. This paper looks at household experience of violence in fve impoverished sites in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. Five sites were purposefully selected to refect the prevailing housing profles in settings of relative impoverishment in Johannesburg. A structured questionnaire was used to obtain information on demographic profles, socioeconomic data, environmental conditions and health status. Bivariate analyses were conducted to assess the relationship between household experience of violence, and potential risk factors and health/social outcomes. Overall, members of 28% of households had been a victim of violence in the year preceding the study. Across sites, experience of violence within households ranged from 21% to 36%. Perceptions of drug abuse (p=0.01) and drug peddling (p=0.03) as being major problems in the neighbourhood, and living in a house of poor quality (p=0.01), were signifcantly associated with household experience of crime. In households with experience of violence, fear of crime (p=0.03) and depression (p<0.001) were elevated, and levels of exercise in men were decreased (p=0.05). This paper highlights the high prevalence of violence in impoverished urban areas in South Africa, and contributes to existing evidence regarding the associations between experience of violent crime and psychological ill health in affected communities. The high prevalence of violent crime, and the resultant health and social effects, demand a cross-sectoral intervention to reduce violence, with the health and social sectors playing key roles.

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