Nav: Home

Mexico's murder rate led to decrease in men's average life expectancy in first decade

January 05, 2016

Mexico's staggering homicide rate has taken a toll on the mortality rate for men -- and it could be even worse than the statistics indicate, a new study from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health suggests.

Improvements in living standards and in the availability of health care helped boost life expectancy throughout Latin America during the second half of the 20th century. But that trend slowed in the early 2000s and began reversing after 2005 due to the rising homicide rate in Central America and Mexico. In Mexico, that rate more than doubled from 9.5 per 100,000 deaths in 2005 to 22 per 100,000 by 2010.

As a result, in Mexico alone life expectancy among men ages 15 through 50 fell by about 0.6 percent between 2005 and 2010. Increases in life expectancy among Mexican women slowed during the same period for the same reason.

"Our results indicate that homicides can have a large impact on the average years of life of a population," said Dr. Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez, a lead investigator on the study and assistant professor of community health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. "Violence in Mexico has spread throughout the entire country, so our findings suggest that homicides need to be addressed from a public health perspective to improve peoples' lives."

The study is published in the January issue of the peer reviewed journal Health Affairs.

These data may actually underestimate the nation's homicide rate, according to Beltrán-Sánchez, who is also a member of UCLA's California Center for Population Research.

"The impact of homicides on the average years of life in Mexico is probably worse than we report, because other studies indicate a large number of missing individuals and many deaths that were never recorded," he said.

The researchers used data from the Mexican National Statistical Office, which includes cause of death by age, gender and place of death, and from the Mexican Demographic Society to examine life expectancy changes over two time periods: 2000 to 2005 and 2005 to 2010.

The study traces the rise in Mexico's homicide rate to 2006, when then-President Felipe Calderon launched a large-scale government crackdown against the country's drug cartels. But homicide mortality increased even in states with little or no drug cartel activity, as well as in those with historically low murder rates. For example, most states in Mexico saw an increase in male life expectancy in the first part of the decade, from 72 years in 2000 to 72.5 years in 2005. By 2010, however, the average life span for men had fallen by an average of six months in two-thirds of the states in Mexico.

Life expectancy fell the most among men in the northern part of the country, which has been the most impacted by the drug war -- for instance, life expectancy fell by up to three years in Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Durango during the latter half of the decade. It also went down at least six months during the same period in Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Morelos, Oaxaca, Campeche and Yucatan, central and southern states that are not affected by the drug war.

Although there were small gains in overall life expectancy among women during the period, deaths by homicide increased for women as well. In the northern states, the murder rate for women did lead to declines in life expectancy. In Chihuahua it fell by about six months, and in Durango and Sinaloa by about three. Women's life expectancy fell by two and a half months in other states such as Nayarit, Guerrero and Morelos, which are less affected by drug-related violence.

The researchers' next step, Beltrán-Sánchez said, will be to document the impact of homicides in other Latin American countries.

"The homicide rate in Mexico is lower than in other Latin American countries -- for example Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, Colombia and Brazil," he said. "One would expect homicides to have a greater impact in these countries. There is an urgent need to document the impact of homicides on the Latin American population."

There are some limitations in the study. For example, the effects of homicide on average life expectancy may be underestimated due to underreporting, undercounting, inaccuracies in the reporting of cause of death and the large number of missing people.
The study's co-authors are José Manuel Aburto of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Victor Manuel García-Guerrero of El Colegio de Mexico and Vladimir Canudas-Romo of the Max-Planck Odense Center on Biodemography of Aging.

University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

Related Public Health Articles:

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.
Bloomberg American Health Initiative releases special public health reports supplement
With US life expectancy now on the decline for two consecutive years, the Bloomberg American Health Initiative is releasing a supplement to Public Health Reports, the scholarly journal of the US Surgeon General.
Data does the heavy lifting: Encouraging new public health approaches to promote the health benefits of muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE)
According to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, almost 75 percent of US adults do not comply with public health guidelines recommending two or more muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE) sessions a week, with nearly 60 percent of the population doing no MSE at all.
The Lancet Public Health: Moderate carbohydrate intake may be best for health
Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with proteins and fats from plant sources associated with lower risk of mortality compared to those that replace carbohydrates with proteins and fat from animal sources.
More Public Health News and Public Health Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...