A few days ago I was startled by this chart of homocide and suicide statistics across the world. It’s a surprisingly difficult chart to interpret – the disparities between regions are extraordinarily large and only really lend themselves to suggestions of massive cultural difference.
For example, in the Americas for every 100,000 deaths – 19 are homicides and eight are suicides. In Europe, on the other hand it’s the opposite story – many less homicides (eight) and many more suicides (19). The Western Pacific and Australia is littered with suicides but has an almost non-existent homicide rate, and it seems that the Eastern Mediterranean is the least violent place to live – less than thirteen people out of every thousand die violent deaths – from both suicide and homicide. And men world-wide are more likely than women to die both at their own hands and at the hands of others.
But where are such differences coming from? Is the lack of homicides in Europe an effect of strong gun laws? And if so what is the reason for the high suicide rate? Is it a factor of comparative comfort of living or is it instead that those who die from homicide in the UK would find themselves pursuing a violent death in the US?