Personal security is a core element for the well-being of individuals, and includes the risks of people being physically assaulted or falling victim to other types of crime. Crime may lead to loss of life and property, as well as physical pain, post-traumatic stress and anxiety. One of the biggest impacts of crime on people’s well-being appears to be through the feeling of vulnerability that it causes.

Feeling safe walking alone at night

According to recent data, about 68% of people in OECD countries say they feel safe walking alone at night. There are major differences, however, between countries. While 85% or more of people in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Switzerland say they feel safe. The level in Mexico is just below 40%, and the same is true for Brazil and South Africa. Latvia is closer to the OECD average with 62%.

Homicide rate

Homicide rates (the number of murders per 100 000 inhabitants) only represent the most extreme form of contact crime and thus do not provide information about more typical safety conditions. They are however a more reliable measure of a country’s safety level because, unlike other crimes, murders are usually always reported to the police. According to the latest OECD data, the average homicide rate in the OECD is 4.1 murders per 100 000 inhabitants. Homicide rates for men are usually higher than those affecting women, with 7.0 per 100 000 for men and 1.3 per 100 000 for women.

However, while men are at a greater risk of being victims of assault and violent crime, women report lower feelings of security. This has been explained by a greater fear of sexual attacks, the feeling they must also protect their children and their concern that they may be seen as partially responsible.

Social status also has an impact on victimisation rates and perceptions of security. People with higher income and higher education usually report higher feelings of security and face lower risks of crime. This can be explained by the fact they can afford better security and are less exposed to criminal activities such as youth gangs or drug smuggling.

Note: data for the indicator "Feeling safe walking alone at night" is provided by the Gallup World Poll.

Safety in Detail by Country