Bencsik Panka, Universitiy of Sussex
Stress on the sidewalk: The mental health costs of close proximity crime
Crime is a substantial, negative externality for mental health, but the precise estimation of the size of the effect has been hindered by the lack of availability of regular stress data. In this paper, I apply a smartphone based, daily response panel dataset with over 75,000 responses from 2010 to 2017 in the Thames Valley region of England to estimate the effect of crime on mental wellbeing, specifically momentary stress levels. I connect the daily stress levels for the exact response location with the daily and monthly crime level in the same neighborhood, and find a strong negative impact for a crime event on stress, compared to no crime in the past three days, specifically driven by violent crimes, and crimes that are committed two days before the response. This two-day lag suggests a presence of a mediator of the information–word of mouth or the media. This result holds with extensive controls for neighborhood fixed effects, individual fixed effects, and circumstantial characteristics. My estimations are both temporally and geographically more precise than possible before, estimating at the geographic level of the Output Area (OA), which – with an average of 131 households – is the size of about a single street, less than twentieth of the size of a zip code in the United States. In terms of perceived crime, I scrape multiple news sites, and observe linearly increasing nationwide stress levels in response to articles published on the topic of crime in the domestic news section of The Guardian newspaper the day before the response was given. Overall, the paper is able to estimate the larger society cost of each unique violent crime reported to the police, which can in turn put a better beyond-victim cost calculation on crime fighting.