Life in a violent country can be years shorter – even for those not involved in conflict

Life in a violent country can be years shorter – even for those not involved in conflict


Black & white image of protesters and police

New research co-authored by Dr José Manuel Aburto and Professor Ridhi Kashyap has revealed that life expectancy for young people can be as much as 14 years shorter in violent countries compared to peaceful countries.

The study reveals a direct link between the uncertainty of living in a violent setting, even for those not directly involved in the violence, and a ‘double burden’ of shorter and less predictable lives.

The research is the result of a collaboration with Vanessa di Lego, the Vienna Institute of Demography; Orsola Torrisi, London School of Economics; and Tim Riffe and Alyson van Raalte from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.

José Manuel and Vanessa spoke to the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science about their findings and the impact on global population health:

According to the research, violent deaths are responsible for a high proportion of the differences in lifetime uncertainty between violent and peaceful countries. 

However, the study notes:

The impact of violence on mortality goes beyond cutting lives short. When lives are routinely lost to violence, those left behind face uncertainty as to who will be next.

Using mortality data from 162 countries, and the Internal Peace Index between 2008-2017, the study shows that the most violent countries are also those with the highest lifetime uncertainty.

In the Middle East, conflict-related deaths at young ages are the biggest contributor to this, while in Latin America a similar pattern results from homicides.

The effects are larger in magnitude for men, but the consequences remain considerable for women. Poverty-insecurity-violence cycles magnify pre-existing structural patterns of disadvantage for women and fundamental imbalances in gender relations at young ages.

The study points to a 'double burden' of violence on longevity: not only does violence shorten individual lives, but it also makes the length of life less predictable.

Exposure to violent contexts also increases the risk of depression, alcohol abuse, suicidal behaviour, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other long-term psychological problems.

The paper concludes:

The magnitude of lifetime uncertainty attributed to violence in the form of armed conflicts and homicides highlights how it is a public health crisis in many parts of the world with tremendous implications on population health.


Read more on the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science website