Download complete Safety domain

Both our perception and experience of safety strongly influence wellbeing. People who hold fears for their personal safety and security are likely to have a lower quality of life and a decreased sense of wellbeing, and may find it difficult to participate fully in their community [1,2]. Where offending in a community is perceived to increase, or actually does increase, the community may become less appealing for new residents and for people who go there for recreation or other activities [3-5]. Communities with low levels of offending attract greater investment from the private sector, which in turn creates more employment opportunities and contributes to a higher quality of life, as the community is more stable and healthier [6-8].

Rates of child abuse and neglect are of particular concern in New Zealand [9]. International evidence emphasises that it is important to have a safe, secure and attached childhood. If a child experiences repeated abuse or neglect, this harms their development, progression and functioning [9]. Child abuse and neglect are risk factors for substance misuse, risky sexual behaviour, obesity, and criminal behaviour, and are associated with poorer child and adult mental health, as well as poorer educational achievement and employment outcomes [10-13].

Key trends within safety

In the Canterbury Wellbeing Survey, respondents from greater Christchurch indicated favourable levels of perceived safety across different locations and times of day (with the exception of Christchurch City centre after dark). The indicators also suggest that the number of family violence victimisations has remained relatively stable for greater Christchurch over the last four to five years. However, the indicators suggest that the number of property-related offences has shown an upward trend prior to falling substantially during the COVID-19 lockdown period. Oranga Tamariki reports of concern requiring further action, and findings of child abuse or neglect both increased for greater Christchurch/Canterbury in 2018.

Key equity issues within safety

The perceptions of safety indicator suggests that having a low income or long-term health condition or disability, or being female, older, or non-European are all associated with increased perceived risk of harm. No breakdown data are available for the remainder of the indicators (property-related offences, Oranga Tamariki notifications requiring action, child abuse or neglect victimisations, or family violence victimisations).

What this means for wellbeing

The relationship between safety indicators and wellbeing is complex. However, lower levels of personal exposure to harm or loss are generally relatable to improved levels of wellbeing. The data show differences in perceptions of safety for some groups (such as for females after dark in their neighbourhood and/or town/city centre, and for people with a long-term health condition or disability). Other indicators (property-related victimisations, Oranga Tamariki child investigations and child abuse or neglect) suggest that exposure to harm in these contexts has been relatively stable over recent years, although recent (2018 onwards) data suggest some increase in reported harm.


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