As a result of the Alabama and German massacres of this week I asked Joaquin Mirkin of my foundation to put together for me what I call the Shortened Life Index.  This index is the addition of the murder rate and the suicide rate of a country.  Now what is interesting about this index is that there clearly is an inverse correlation between suicide rates and homicide rates around the world.  Countries with very high suicide rates tend to have very low homicide rates and viceversa.  I don´t know why.

Some curious data. Islamic countries, known for suicide terrorists, are the countries with the lowest Shortened Life Index. Suicide terrorists are a really small percentage and the Shortened Life Index for Iran and Saudi Arabia suggest they are very safe countries to live in.

It’s safer to live in Mexico or Argentina with their frequent homicides then in Switzerland, a country with so many suicides that its Shortened Life Index is higher then the index of countries well know for being dangerous. In the US, a country known for its history of homicides, it’s actually more likely to die committing suicide then killed by somebody else.

Spain is one of the safest non Islamic countries in the world. Few homicides and few suicides. Italy, well known for its mafia and criminality, has one of the lowest homicide rates in the world. Israel has a very low Shortened Life Index as well, even if Israel is a country of immigrants coming from countries, like Russia, with high suicide and homicides rates.

Here are graphs showing the suicide rates, the homicide rates and the Shortened Life Index for a select group of countries.


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Antoin O Lachtnain on March 16, 2009  · 

I understand there is an issue with WHO homicide figures for some countries.

WHO goes off description on the death cert, and irish death certs (and possibly death certs from other countries) rarely meet the WHO criteria, even if the deaths are obviously some sort of homicide. This makes the rate look artificially low.

(So it will say something like ‘gunshot wound to the head’ rather than ‘homicide’.)

I would say that the real rate of homicides in ireland is about 90 per year, which works out at around 2.25/100,000 people.

There are also other methodological problems. There is a paper about this issue.

Suicide rates are also tough to measure, because of the stigma involved.

It would certainly be an interesting project to try and control out some of these factors.

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Philipp on March 16, 2009  · 

Martin, have you also checked if there is a correlation of suicide rate and population density/ urbanization degree? I would expect countries with denser populations to have higher suicide rates.

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Guido on March 19, 2009  · 

According to the statistics that I have seen, Colombia has now a lower murder rate than Venezuela.
That agrees with my personal perception of crimes in both countries (I am Venezuelan).

It would be very interesting to plot the relation between murders and suicides for the same country over time, some general trends might arise also if we plot the values of all countries.
I made a graphic like that for other purpose using gapminder, and it is very informative, specially if you play with the variables a bit, and that is very easy to do.

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