Violence Prevention–Social and Economic Costs of Violence

Here is a natural follow-up to last weeks post.  Doing nothing about violence in our society is expensive and damaging.  Here is a study done to enumerate some of the costs and consequences of non-prevention.  Basically, we all stand with our heads in the sand and pray for violence to go away; while paying through the noses to deal with the effects caused by said violence–whether it be prisons, police departments, military, or just mental health treatments.  We all pay to support this.

Please read this study to the end and see if you don’t agree that we need to be doing more for prevention of violence than we currently are doing.  The connection between mental health issues and violence seems to be that the mentally ill are most likely to become the recipients of this violence and then need more and longer treatment to help them.


Putting a value on the impact of violence, while often an incomplete picture, provides evidence for investing in preventive interventions. Both enumerated and estimated costs—economic and social—indicate an enormous burden on public health. In particular, violence at specific points along the life span can have a greater impact. Also, addressing violence after it occurs, in addition to preventing the recurrence of violence, can be costly.

Thus, investing in early prevention can have significant financial benefit. It can prevent violence before it begins, or it can prevent the development of longer-term outcomes of violence.

The first paper in this section examines the value of prevention, by exploring the costs of violence and the costs of intervention. It also explores different methods of assessing value to highlight the importance of a number of perspectives on prevention.

The second paper is an example of a community-based preventive intervention that builds resiliency and prosocial behavior in individuals and the community as a whole. It also demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of prevention.


Rachel A. Davis, M.S.W.

Prevention Institute

Prevention has tremendous value, and there are many ways to think about its value in the context of preventing violence. Prevention is a systematic process that reduces the frequency or severity of illness or injury, and primary prevention promotes healthy environments and behaviors to head off problems before the onset of symptoms.

Ten ways of thinking about the value of prevention are the following:

1. Direct costs of not preventing violence
2. Indirect costs of not preventing violence
3. Savings due to prevention
4. Advantages of a prevention approach
5. Partnerships and multisector collaboration
6. A good solution solves multiple problems
7. Prevention works
8. Multiplier effect
9. Efficient government
10. Prevention reduces suffering and saves lives

Direct Costs of Not Preventing Violence

One way to appreciate the value of preventing violence is to understand the costs of violence. A single violent incident is far more expensive than many realize. For example:

  • Every fatal assault costs $4,906 on average, with another $1.3 million in lost productivity ().
  • Every nonfatal assault costs approximately $1,000 on average, with $2,822 in lost productivity ().
  • The economic cost of violent deaths was $47.2 billion in 2005. This includes medical treatment and lost future wages ().
  • The cost of sexual and domestic violence exceeded $5.8 billion— $319 million for rape, $4.2 billion for physical assault, and $1.75 billion in lost earnings and productivity ().

On top of the cost to the government and the taxpayer for each individual act of violence, add the expense of long-term incarceration for perpetrators:

Read the entire study here and see what you think about this topic as it relates to mental health.

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