Select Committee on Health Second Report


249. Once viewed solely as a criminal justice problem, violence in the community is now often seen as a public health problem. While the criminal justice system tends to identify anti-social individuals as the cause of the problem, public health tends to identify social and structural reasons for violence in the community and argues that social solutions are necessary.

250. It is hard to quantify the impact of violence in the community. Most attention has been paid to domestic violence, particularly against women.[344] In the 1992 British Crime Survey, 11% of women who had lived with a partner reported physical violence against them in their relationship. Other studies have found higher percentages of women who have experienced physical injury from their partners or former partners. 45% of female homicide victims in England and Wales are killed by present or former partners. By contrast, only 6% of male homicide victims are killed by their spouse or partner.

251. Other important aspects of violence involve teenagers. A considerable amount of research has been carried out in the United States on the determinants of teenage violence. High levels of violence in young people are associated with poor performance at school and weak social bonds with peers. High levels of tobacco and marijuana smoking in schools are also linked with subsequent violence in later teenage years. Girls with low self-esteem during early adolescence were more likely to exhibit violent behaviour later on. These authors concluded that programmes aimed at preventing drug use and raising self-esteem in young adolescents may produce a significant reduction in violent behaviour in later life.

252. Alcohol misuse has also been identified as an independent predictor of violent behaviour in American studies. Even after controlling for income, educational status and employment status, alcohol misuse was still a significant predictor of violent behaviour.

253. Evidence suggests that interventions aimed at improving public health through social and structural change will have a beneficial effect on violent behaviour amongst young people and in the home. Improving education, improving self-esteem and reducing tobacco, alcohol and drug use is likely, on the basis of US studies, to have a beneficial effect on violence at all levels in the community. The health consequences of violence amongst those, particularly women, who are subject to regular violence are significant and can lead to an increased incidence of common symptoms such as headaches, stress, back pain, abdominal pain. Controlling violence, particularly in the home, should lead to a reduction in these symptoms.

254. Many of these issues involve the Home Office as the lead government Department indicating again how essential it is that the Government co-operates across departmental boundaries in tackling public health issues.

344   See Siobhan McCartney, "Domestic Violence" in Perspectives in Public Health, pp.85-94. Back

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