Violence shortening average life expectancy in Mexico

Drug war over last decade has reduced expected lifespans by up to three years, study finds

Forensics experts move the bodies of two police officers killed in Culiacán
Forensics experts move the bodies of two police officers killed in CuliacánAFP

The rise in the number of homicides in Mexico from 2000 to 2010 has reduced the average life expectancy of its citizens, a study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has discovered.

The most severely affected are men between the ages of 15 and 50, whose lifespans dropped by 0.6 percent between 2005 and 2010, the research found. The trend marks the first time that life expectancy has dropped in the country since the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917).

According to the study, life expectancy among men who live in the north, the most violent part of the country, has fallen by three years

Researchers examined official population records to determine how violence has affected life expectancy. In 2005, 9.5 out of every 100,000 deaths were homicides but by 2010, 22 deaths out of 100,000 were murders. There has been a significant increase in the homicide rate since 2006, when former President Felipe Calderón launched a war against the drug trade.

“Our results indicate that homicides can have a large impact on the average age of a population,” says Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez, one of the researchers. “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.”

According to the study, most Mexican states saw an increase in life expectancy from 72 to 72.5 years from 2000 to 2005. But, in the second half of the decade, during the drug war, life expectancy dropped back to 72 years. Researchers say these results could change since some deaths have not been officially reported and because there are so many missing persons – 26,000, according to Mexican authorities.

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Researchers say life expectancy in Mexico varies by region. Life expectancy among men who live in the north, the area that has borne the brunt of the drug war, has fallen by three years. At the same time, women living in northern Mexico only saw a six-month drop in their expected lifespans. The research also concluded that life expectancy in central and southern areas has decreased by six months.

Mexico has the lowest life expectancy of the 34 countries within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 2014, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) estimated the average lifespan of a Mexican to be 74 years. According to the last OECD report, health issues related to obesity and traffic accidents have also contributed to the decline in the country.

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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