United Kingdom


Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • Among those aged 60 or over, women are around four times as likely to feel very unsafe out at night as men: 22% compared with 5%.
  • For women, this proportion is lower than much lower than a decade ago, when it was 30%.
  • Among women aged 60 and over, those from lower-income households are one and a half times as likely to feel very unsafe out at night as those from higher-income households: 28% compared with 18%.  The comparable figures for men are 10% and 5% respectively.
  • Large though these income gaps are, however, this particular subject is one when the gender gap is greater than the income gap (for example, 18% of women in households with more than £10,000 feel very unsafe out at night compared with 10% of men in households with less than £10,000).

Why this indicator was originally chosen

A greater proportion of 60-69 year olds have anxiety and depression than any other age group. 1  For many older people, anxiety and depression are caused and compounded by bereavement, and indeed retirement itself, which for men in particular can be a highly disorientating and stressful experience.

One symptom of anxiety and depression is fear of leaving the house.  Although less likely to be victims of crime than younger people, older people (particularly women) are more likely to feel unsafe alone in the streets at night. In this context, this indicator of vulnerability among older people measures the proportion of older people feeling unsafe out alone after dark.  Although not the ideal indicator in some ways – since a large proportion of older people never leave the house after dark at all – information is regularly available in the British Crime Survey.

Definitions and data sources

The first graph proportion of people aged 60 or over who say that they feel very unsafe walking alone in their area after dark, with the data shown separately for men and women.

The second graph shows, for the latest year, a breakdown of the statistics according to whether the people lived in households with an annual income of more or less than £10,000.

The data source for both graphs is the British Crime Survey (BCS) and the data relates to England and Wales.  Note that there is no BCS survey data for 1999.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  The BCS is a well established annual government survey and the fact that the proportions feeling very unsafe have changed little over successive surveys suggests a degree of robustness to this result.  However, it is unclear to what extent these feelings reflect anxiety more generally or simply with respect to walking at night.

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

Overall aim:  Tackle poverty and promote greater independence and well-being in later life

Lead department

Department for Work and Pensions.

Official national targets


Other indicators of progress

Employment rate age 50-69: percentage difference between this and overall employment rate.

Pensioner poverty.

Healthy life-expectancy at age 65.

Over 65s satisfied with home and neighbourhood.

Over 65s supported to live independently.

Overall aim:  Make communities safer

Lead department

Home Office.

Official national targets


Other indicators of progress

Level of most serious violent crimes.

Level of serious acquisitive crimes.

Public confidence in local agencies involved in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.

Percentage of people perceiving anti-social behaviour as a problem.

Level of proven re-offending by young and adult offenders.

Level of serious re-offending.

Previous 2004 targets

Reduce crime by 15% and further in high crime areas by 2007/08.

Reassure the public, reducing the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour, and building confidence in the Criminal Justice System without compromising fairness.

Tackle social exclusion and deliver neighbourhood renewal, working with department to help them meet their PSA floor Official national targets, in particular narrowing the gap in health, education, crime, worklessness, housing and liveability outcomes between the most deprived areas and the rest of England, with measurable improvement by 2010.

The numbers

Graph 1

Year Men Women
1994 9% 33%
1996 9% 31%
1998 7% 33%
2000 9% 31%
2001 9% 34%
2001/02 10% 34%
2002/03 10% 33%
2003/04 8% 29%
2004/05 7% 25%
2005/067% 25%
2006/077% 25%
2007/087% 23%
2008/097% 22%
2009/105% 22%

Graph 2

Income level Men Women
Household income less than £10,000 per year 10% 28%
Household income more than £10,000 per year 5% 18%
1. Kind et al, Variations in population health status: results from a United Kingdom national questionnaire survey, BMJ, Vol 316, 1998.