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Epidemiology of violent deaths in the world
  1. A Reza1,*,
  2. J A Mercy1,
  3. E Krug2
  1. 1Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. 2World Health Organization
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr James A Mercy, Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC, Mailstop K60, 4770 Buford Highway, NE, Atlanta, GA 30341–3724, USA


Objective—This study describes epidemiologic patterns of mortality due to suicide, homicide, and war for the world in order to serve as a benchmark against which to measure future progress and to raise awareness about violence as a global public health problem.

Setting—The world and its eight major regions.

Method—Data were derived from The Global Burden of Disease series and the US National Center for Health Statistics to estimate crude rates, age adjusted rates, sex rate ratios, and the health burden for suicide, homicide, and war related deaths for the world and its eight major regions in 1990.

Results—In 1990, an estimated 1 851 000 people died from violence (35.3 per 100 000) in the world. There were an estimated 786 000 suicides. Overall suicide rates ranged from 3.4 per 100 000 in Sub-Saharan Africa to 30.4 per 100 000 in China. There were an estimated 563 000 homicides. Overall homicide rates ranged from 1.0 per 100 000 in established market economies to 44.8 per 100 000 in Sub-Saharan Africa with peaks among males aged 15–24 years old, and among females aged 0–4 years old. There were an estimated 502 000 war related deaths with peaks in rates for both sexes among people aged 0–4, 15–29, and 60–69 years old.

Conclusion—The number of violence related deaths in the world is unacceptably high. Coordinated prevention and control efforts are urgently needed.

  • violence
  • homicide
  • suicide
  • war
  • cross cultural comparison

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  • * Source: Murray CJL, Lopez AD, eds. The global burden of disease. Annex table 1. State or territories included in the Global Burden of Disease Study, by demographic region. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 1996.

  • * Currently affiliated with the Emory University School of Medicine