Reverberations From a Rise in Mexico’s Murder Rate

Escalating homicide rates in Mexico are affecting the country’s average life expectancy.

According to research published in the journal Health Affairs, the life expectancy for Mexican men aged 15 to 50 fell by 0.6 percent from 2005 to 2010.

“In most countries, homicides do commonly occur, particularly among young people,” said Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez, a professor of public health at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the lead author of the study. “What is unusual, though, is for homicides to have such a large impact at the national level.”

In 2005, Mexico’s murder rate was 9.5 per 100,000 people, but by 2010, that figure had more than doubled, to 22 per 100,000. That shift coincides with the beginning of a new national security strategy in 2006, which aimed to dismantle criminal organizations, Dr. Beltrán-Sánchez said.

“We suspect that the rise in homicides has to do with those policies, which we hope will be discontinued.”

As in most countries around the world, improvements in health care, living standards and nutrition had increased life expectancy in Mexico, which rose by four to five years per decade from 1940 to 2000. Had that pattern held, Mexican men, whose life expectancy at birth was about 72 years in 2000, should have averaged 76 or 77 years in 2010.

Instead, Dr. Beltrán-Sánchez and his colleagues found that life expectancy had held steady over that time. For women during the same period, life expectancy increased by less than a year — from about 77 to 78 years — rather than the 5.5 years seen in past decades.

According to Dr. Beltrán-Sánchez’s analysis, life expectancy seemed to be on the rise from 2000 to 2005, but from 2005 to 2010, many states, especially those at the center of the drug war, had a drastic reversal.

The average life expectancy for men in the states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Durango, for example, fell by three years over those five years. Chihuahua averaged more than 20 deaths per 1,000 males under age 75.

The life expectancy among women in those states was also affected, falling by three to six months.

Because of the surplus of missing-person reports in Mexico, Dr. Beltrán-Sánchez and his colleagues consider their results a conservative estimate of homicide’s true effect on life expectancy.

“We don’t know if missing individuals are already dead or still alive,” Dr. Beltrán-Sánchez said. “So what we’re finding, although dramatic, is not as bad as it could actually be.”

Dr. Beltrán-Sánchez suspects that even sharper trends are playing out in other nations where homicide rates have recently shot up, including El Salvador and Honduras.

“Our next step is to try to get our hands on data from other Central American countries,” he said. “Getting reliable data that actually reflect what’s going on is always the issue.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s