Homicide: men three times more likely to be victims

Men are three times more likely to be victims of homicide. In 2012, nearly 35 000 people in the WHO European Region lost their lives due to homicide, with males aged 30–59 years most at risk. Violent deaths tell only part of the story, as data on non-fatal assaults are not always available. It is estimated that for every case of homicide, 43 people were admitted to hospital and 262 attended emergency rooms for treatment following a violent assault. This represents a huge strain on both health systems and emergency services.

A new WHO European factsheet, published together with the first “Global status report on violence prevention”, assesses the measures that countries are taking to prevent violence.

Inequalities persist

Homicides rates are declining across the Region. However, there are huge disparities between Member States. In the Commonwealth of Independent States, the homicide rates are ten times higher than those in the European Union. Interpersonal violence is closely associated with socioeconomic conditions. There is also a strong correlation between alcohol consumption and violence. Urgent new measures are needed to reduce access to alcohol and its effects.

Country investment in prevention is insufficient

It is better to prevent than to cure, as the saying goes. There are already more than 18 prevention programmes that are cost-effective in covering the various types of interpersonal violence. However, on average, countries implement only 41% of the interventions on a large scale.

The WHO life-course approach focuses on the prevention of violence among children and young people. Home visits, parenting skills and school-based programmes empower children to speak out about abuse and give parents and teachers the know-how to recognize and deal with abuse issues. More than half the countries covered in the report are implementing bullying prevention initiatives and after-school programmes.

Many countries have a limited availability of violence prevention programmes and interventions, which affect intimate partner and sexual violence and elder abuse. There is a definite need to scale up such projects in these areas.

WHO response

Interpersonal violence remains a significant public health problem in the European Region. Reliable mortality data are the mainstay for monitoring policy and population health.

Although the availability of homicide data across the region is generally good, the figures for non-fatal assaults are not readily available.

WHO actions recommended at the national level include:

  • strengthening data collection to show and monitor the extent of the problem;
  • developing comprehensive national action plans for violence prevention;
  • seeking opportunities to integrate violence prevention into other health areas, such as child health or mental health services;
  • scaling up the coverage of violence prevention action plans;
  • improving the quality of services to increase the capacity for detection, care, support and rehabilitation of victims;
  • enforcing and improving the quality of existing laws that protect individuals from violence;
  • building health-systems capacity for violence prevention; and
  • focusing on equity and a life-course approach.