A reflector for violence

I don’t know what to make of this, but the discovery is quite startling. It’s data from a World Health Organisation study on lethal violence, finding that the ratio between murder and suicide differs between countries, and in some countries differs between sexes.

It suggests an interesting hypothesis, that cultural differences affect whether lethal violence is typically directed outwards (murder) or inwards (suicide). Skip to the findings if you just want the bottom line.

An Analysis of WHO Data on Lethal Violence: Relevance of the New Western Millennium.

Rezaeian M.

Asia Pac J Public Health. 2009 Jul 2. [Epub ahead of print]

INTRODUCTION: Suicide and homicide are considered to be lethal violent acts with a clear difference in their directions, that is, inwardly “killing oneself” or outwardly “killing another,” respectively. There are some studies in which these 2 violent acts are considered under the same framework mostly within Western countries. This article for the first time investigates this issue throughout the world. Material and methods. The present study uses data that have been estimated by Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project for 2000 for the 6 different regions of the world proposed by WHO. The suicide/homicide ratio has been calculated by dividing the suicide rate by the sum of the suicide and homicide rates within each age and sex groups.

FINDINGS. Three distinct groups have emerged. In the first group, that is, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Western Pacific, lethal violence in both males and females usually directs inward whereas in the second group, that is, Africa, lethal violence in both males and females directs outward. In the third group, that is, America and Eastern Mediterranean, in males lethal violence generally directs outward whereas in females it often directs inward.

CONCLUSION: Under the same framework if a factor causes external blame for the people’s failures it will increase the likelihood that the suicide/homicide ratio is expressed as homicide and vice versa. Although this might explain the observed pattern to some extent, more in-depth studies are needed to better understand the causal root of the pattern.

Link to PubMed entry for study.

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