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Mexico's epidemic of violence and its public health significance on average length of life
  1. Vladimir Canudas-Romo1,2,3,
  2. José Manuel Aburto1,3,
  3. Victor Manuel García-Guerrero4,
  4. Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez5
  1. 1Max-Planck Odense Center on the Biodemography of Aging, University of Southern Denmark, Odense C, Denmark
  2. 2Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  3. 3Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany
  4. 4Centro de Estudios Demográficos, Urbanos y Ambientales, El Colegio de Mexico A.C. México City, México
  5. 5Department of Community Health Sciences at the Fielding School of Public Health and California Center for Population Research, Center for Health Sciences, Los Angeles, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Vladimir Canudas-Romo, Max-Planck Odense Center for the Biodemography of Aging, University of Southern Denmark, J.B. Winsløws Vej 9, 5000 Odense C, Denmark; vcanudas{at}


Objectives A disproportionate number of homicides have caused Mexican life expectancy to stagnate during the new millennium. No efforts currently exist to quantify the harm of violent acts on the lives of the general population. We quantified the impact of perceived vulnerability on life expectancy.

Methods Three Mexican national surveys on perceptions of public safety, life tables, and crime and vital statistics (2000–2014) were used. Prevalence rates of vulnerability/safety by age and sex were obtained from surveys at 2 different levels: federal state and home. The Sullivan method was used to estimate life expectancy lived with and without vulnerability for Mexican women and men.

Results Overall life expectancy at age 20 stagnated between 2005 and 2014 for females and males; yet, there was an increase of 40% and 70% in average number of years lived with vulnerability at the state and home levels, respectively. In 2014, female life expectancy at age 20 was 59.5 years (95% CI 59.0 to 60.1); 71% of these years (42.3 years, 41.6 to 43.0) were spent with perceived vulnerability of violence taking place in the state and 26% at the home (15.3 years, 15 to 15.8). For males, life expectancy at age 20 was 54.5 years (53.7 to 55.1); 64% of these years (34.6 years, 34.0 to 35.4) were lived with perceived vulnerability of violence at the state and 20% at the home (11.1 years, 10.8 to 11.5).

Conclusions The number of years lived with perceived vulnerability among Mexicans has increased by 30.5 million person-years over the last 10 years. If perceived vulnerability remains at its 2014 level, the average Mexican adults would be expected to live a large fraction of his/her life with perceived vulnerability of violence. Acts of violence continue to rise in the country and they should be addressed as a major public health issue before they become endemic.


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  • Twitter Follow Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez at @HBeltranSanchez José Aburto at @jm_aburto and Víctor García-Guerrero at @vicmgg

  • Contributors HB-S, VMG-G, JMA and VC-R designed the conception of the study. JMA and VC-R did the statistical analyses with advice from HB-S and VMG-G, and all authors helped to interpret the results. VC-R wrote the first draft and all other authors reviewed and revised the manuscript. All authors approved of the final version.

  • Funding The first, second and last authors received salary support from the European Research Council grant 240795, the European Doctoral School of Demography, and NIH grants R24HD047873, R24HD041022 and P30AG017266, respectively.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement We used free available data and proper citation is included in the reference list for any researcher to have access to it.

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