Study title
Anomie in South-East Queensland, Australia
Ref study 6382
Study language German
Contributing institutions
  • Integration
  • Anomie
  • Sozialer Verfall
  • Desintegration
Februar bis Mai 1997.
Geographical space
Australien (Brisbane-South East Queensland)
  • Switzerland
The world is undergoing historical transitions. Great social and economic changes within a system are often accompanied by structural strains, especially when the old system and the new system coexist and clash. These stressful circumstances give rise to certain subjective feelings on the part of the individuals living within the system.
Such feeling states can be measured through opinion and attitude questions contained within survey instruments. Measuring the impact of stressful circumstances on both the morale and the beliefs of a population experiencing such upheaval would be of great interest not only to decision-makers, but also to the general public who may want to understand the effects of system transition. The development of such an instrument could result in an early warning system of social unrest.

Anomie is, above all, a social property reflected by individuals' attitudes, opinions, and perceptions. Like many other social phenomena, anomie experienced by individuals or aggregates of individuals has both constructive and destructive functions. We also propose that instability and disintegration constitute the two most essential aspects of anomie concept. The higher the degree of instability and disintegration in a society, the more likely that society is going under an anomic situation, and the more likely its political, social, and economic system would collapse. In short, anomie can be indicated through instability and disintegration. The degree of instability and disintegration reflect directly the degree of anomie in a society.
Objectively, instability may be measured through large income gap, high rate of inflation and unemployment. Subjectively it may be reflected through people's feeling about relative deprivation, status inconsistency and deep and wide-spread dissatisfaction in rapid social and economic changes.
Disintegration may be measured through objective indicators such as high crime rate and massive migration. Subjectively it may be reflected through people's feeling on how far they identify and follow the core values of behavior in a society as well as how far they believe in the government.

Because this research explores the interaction between anomie and the social system and treats anomie as a form of social instability, we would like therefore call our scale as a potential early warning instrument of social instability that contains a multidimensional measure with four constructs: discontent; distrust; pessimism; and individual anomie. We argue that the great social and economic changes within a system are often accompanied by structural strains, especially when the old system and the new system coexist and clash. These stressful circumstances give rise to certain subjective feelings on the part of the individuals living within the system. We propose that an early social warning instrument of instability should be able to measure the overall negative effect of system transition exerted upon individuals with only a few subjective indicators administered at the beginning stage of the transition period. Such an instrument should consist of multidimensional measures tapping different aspects of subjectively experienced social events.
The Margins of Society (MOS) scale comprises 7 items. Respondents were asked to indicate the extent of their agreement with each item on a five-point scale varying from strongly agree to strongly disagree. For ease of presentation responses have been collapsed into "agree" and "disagree" categories. Table 1 presents a summary of the responses to each item. It is clear that "anomic" responses are given by only a minority of the sample. Less than one in ten feel that their whole world is falling apart; slightly more report feeling that it doesn't matter how hard in life people try, it doesn't make any difference, and that they wish they were someone important. Slightly more again, but still no more than around 15 per cent of the group report feeling discriminated against and all alone these days. Finally, somewhat less than a third indicated that they did not like to live by society's rules.
Aggregate scores on the scale were obtained by summing the scores on each item (ratings ranged from 1 to 5) and dividing the total by 7, the number of items in the scale. The distribution of scores are shown in Figure 5. Scores range from a low level of reported anomie, a score of 1, to a high level, a score of 4.14 with a mean of 1.95 and a median of 2. Clearly, high levels of anomie are found in only a small proportion of the total sample. Table 2 provides a distribution of the MOS scale collapsed into quintiles.
While it is clear that anomie is not widespread among the sample of residents surveyed in the South East Queensland region, it is also clear that relatively high levels of anomie do exist among a minority.
These findings are instructive. They indicate that high levels of anomie are likely to be present when key social relationships in both work and family situations are disrupted by unemployment in the first instance and divorce, separation or widowhood in the second. The relatively high levels of anomie found among the young and the single may be due to the fact that stable social relationships have not yet been formed. It is apparent that this data needs further examination by multivariate procedures. There are clearly relationships between age and marital status and very probably between age and employment status. The employment of multivariate procedures would enable the independent effects of these factors on anomie to be systematically evaluated. Nevertheless, it is already clear that in the context of the development of an early warning system the confluence of youth and unemployment as a precussor to the development of subjective forms of anomie should not be ignored.
The effects of the post modernizing forces of globalization, urban transformation and mass migration on subjective anomie have yet to be determined. Further analysis of the survey data currently under way is concerned with these questions.
Methods (description)
The overall research program is based upon an integrated methodological framework using geographical information systems (GIS), survey research and historical and comparative analyses. The survey comprises a random sample of some 1300 persons over the age of 18 years resident in the South East Queensland study area.
Target population: Inhabitants of SE Queensland over the age of 17 with access to telephone. About 93% of population.
Data collected using a CATI (computer assisted telephone interviewing) system.
Sampling: Random digit dialling from a computer generated list of telephone numbers covering the SE Queensland region.
Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
  • Western, Andrea. 1999. Anomie in the Asia Pacific Region: The Australian Study. P. Atteslander et al. (Ed.), Comparative Anomie Research: Hidden Barriers - Hidden Potential for Social Development, Aldershot, 1999.
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) Archive
Date created 29.03.2018
Date modified 29.03.2018
Start - End date 01.01.1994 - 28.12.1997