Soaring Mexican murder rate ‘dragging down life expectancy’

Mexico’s soaring murder rate has increased so dramatically that it is dragging down the country’s life expectancy, reveals new research.

A study shows that the shocking increase in Mexico’s murder rate between 2005 and 2015 – fueled by warring drug gangs – was so big that it partially offset expected gains in life expectancy among Mexican men.

Study co-author Doctor Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez, Associate Professor of community health sciences at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in the US, said: “It’s common to see news reports about the toll that drug- and gang-related murders are taking in Mexico.

“This study confirms that homicide is so widespread that even when considering all causes of death, it stands out as a factor in slowing growth in men’s life expectancy.”

Using cause-of-death figures from the Mexican Institute of Statistics, the researchers found that life expectancy for men at age 15 increased by more than a year from 57.08 in 1995 to 58.25 in 2005.

But from 2005 to 2015, they found that life expectancy only increased by about a half a year, from 58.25 to 58.80 years.

The researchers said that the slower growth in life expectancy for the more recent decade was mainly due to an increase in homicides and deaths from heart disease.

They found that the homicide rate for men in 2015 was 31.2 per 100,000 people, up from 20.4 per 100,000 in 2005 – an increase of 53 per cent.

The death rate from heart disease among men was 77.4 per 100,000 people in 2015, up from 68.6 per 100,000 in 2005 — an increase of 13 per cent.

Meanwhile, average life expectancy for Mexican women at age 15 during each of the two decades increased by about a half year, from 62.75 to 63.33 from 1995 to 2005, and 63.33 to 63.90 from 2005 to 2015.

The main causes for death for women during those years were traffic accidents and factors related to diabetes.

Certain states in Mexico experienced especially staggering homicide rates, according to the findings published in the American Journal of Public Health.

For example, in 2010 and 2011 a total of 8,943 men aged 15 to 50 in Chihuahua, a state in north western Mexico, were murdered – three times the number of deaths among U.S. troops in Iraq from 2003 and 2006.

And Dr Beltrán-Sánchez said that the study might actually underestimate Mexico’s homicide rate because many murders may be unreported or are attributed to other causes of death.

He added: “Future research could explore how many of the homicides are directly related to drug or gang violence.”

By Stephen Beech

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