How much does living in a violent country shorten life?

How much does living in a violent country shorten life?

Common sense tells us that living in a violent country carries a higher risk of dying prematurely. But to what extent? Recent research has explored the question.

The length of life in violent countries is less predictable and the life expectancy of young people can be up to 14 years shorter compared to peaceful countries, according to the new study, carried out by an international team led from the University from Oxford in the United Kingdom and in which Tim Riffe, an Ikerbasque researcher at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), has participated.

The uncertainty of life refers to the dispersion in the ages of mortality. Therefore, the greater the dispersion, the greater the uncertainty.

Using mortality data from 162 countries and the Internal Peace Index between 2008 and 2017, the study shows that the most violent countries are also those with the greatest life uncertainty. In the case of the Middle East, it is the deaths related to the conflict at early ages that contribute the most to the perception of high uncertainty. Likewise, in Latin America a similar pattern is observed as a result of homicides and interpersonal violence. At the other extreme, we find that life uncertainty was “remarkably low” between 2008 and 2017, in most northern and southern European countries.

In high-income countries, the reduction in early mortality from cancer has played a role in reducing the uncertainty of life. However, in the most violent societies, life uncertainty is even experienced by those not directly involved in the violence. The report states that “Cycles of poverty, insecurity and violence amplify pre-existing structural patterns of disadvantage for women. In some Latin American countries, murders of women have increased in recent decades and exposure to violent environments has social and health consequences, particularly for children and women. According to the authors of the study “Although men are the main direct victims of violence, women are more likely to experience its consequences in violent contexts.”

The study has verified, among other things, to what extent living in a violent country subtracts years from life. (Image: Amazings/NCYT)

According to the report, lower life expectancy is often associated with greater life uncertainty. Furthermore, living in a violent society creates vulnerability and uncertainty, and that, in turn, can lead to more violent behaviour. Countries with high levels of violence have a lower life expectancy than more peaceful ones. A gap of about 14 years in life expectancy is estimated between the least and most violent countries. Thus, in countries like El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala or Colombia, the gap in life expectancy with high-income countries is mainly explained by the high level of mortality due to homicides.

According to Riffe, it is important to show in a broad sense the effects that violence has on the health of the population, so that it can be considered a public health problem and, therefore, can be susceptible to prevention programs. Violence, as a cause of death, is in principle easier to prevent than other major causes, such as cancer, and the benefits of doing so are both immediate and long-lasting. In fact, there are many examples of societies that went from one situation of high violence to one of prolonged peace.

The study is based on the use of massive data and is based, in part, on mortality estimates modeled by the Global Burden of Disease project, since many of the populations included do not have direct demographic information on mortality, due to the fact that in In much of the world, the vital registration systems, which allow us to carry out research like this directly, have yet to be developed or require significant improvements.

The study is titled “A global assessment of the impact of violence on lifetime uncertainty”. And it has been published in the academic journal Science Advances. (Source: UPV/EHU)


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