Violence: introduction

‘Violence is the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation’ (World Health Organization (WHO) definition of violence )

Violence has been a persistent problem across Scotland and can be prevented long before the justice system is involved. The WHO’s World Report on Violence and Health (2002) describes violence as a public health problem and calls for a public health response to violence reduction.

Violence comes in many forms and contexts, such as youth violence, intimate partner violence, child abuse, suicide or sexual violence and has implications far beyond the victim and perpetrator of violence. The physical, psychological, societal and economic impacts of violence not only place a significant burden on healthcare, justice and social care provision but also on individuals, their relationships and surrounding communities.

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey estimated that there were 186,000 violent crimes committed against adults in Scotland in 2014/15.  Levels of recorded crime reported to the police have dropped in recent years, however it is estimated that between 50-70% of violence is unrecorded and therefore relying on recorded police crime to identify trends is limited. Local emergency department surveillance in NHS Lothian found that there were 3.6 emergency department admissions for interpersonal violence per 1,000 population. Triangulation of data from police recorded crime figures, routine health data and survey estimates provides a more comprehensive picture of the incidence and consequences of violence.

Violence can result from and contribute to health inequalities and there are large and increasing inequalities in mortality due to interpersonal violence and suicide, particularly in younger adults and this is underpinned by socioeconomic disadvantage. The mortality rate from assault in the most deprived communities is nearly four times that of the Scottish average and over 10 times that in the least deprived communities.

Fear of violence can impact on the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. The 2014 Scottish Household Survey reported that 14% of adults in Scotland said that they feel very or a bit unsafe while walking alone in neighbourhood after dark. Those living within the most deprived areas of Scotland, as measured by the SIMD, were more than twice as likely to feel unsafe (27% in the most deprived area compared to 11% in the rest of Scotland).

The Data pages provide examples of patterns and trends in violence and the Key data sources page provides links to violence related information on other web sites. There are clear links between violence, alcohol and drugs use. The Alcohol and Drugs sections of this site provide detailed information on these issues.

The Crime section of our website provides a broader, more general picture of crime in Scotland.