CONGRATULATIONS: if you are reading this then you are not one of the 437,000 people whose lives ended as statistics in a grisly report on murder published on April 10th by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
The unfortunate half-million were all those around the world who were slain in 2012. The average person thus had roughly a one in 16,000 chance of being bumped off that year. But as the UN’s figures make clear, there is no such thing as an average person. How can you shorten your odds of making it through 2014?
First, don’t live in the Americas or Africa, where murder rates (one in 6,100 and one in 8,000 respectively) are more than four times as high as the rest of the world. Western Europe and East Asia are the safest regions.
And the safest countries? Liechtenstein recorded no murders at all in 2012, but its population could fit in a football stadium. Among those countries whose populations number in millions, the safest is Singapore, which clocked up just 11 murders in 2012, or one killing per 480,000 people.
In Honduras, the world’s most violent country, one in every 1,100 residents was killed.
Next, be a woman. Your chance of being murdered will be barely a quarter what it would be were you a man. In fact, steer clear of men altogether: nearly half of all female murder-victims are killed by their partner or another (usually male) family member.
But note that the gender imbalance is less pronounced in the rich world, probably because there is less banditry, a mainly male pursuit. In Japan and South Korea slightly over half of all murder victims are female.
Then, sit back and grow older. From the age of 30 onwards, murder rates fall steadily in most places. But not everywhere. Europeans are more at risk in middle age than in youth. European women cannot let their guard down even in retirement: those aged over 60 are more likely to be murdered than those aged 15-29.
The UN speculates that this may be because they are more likely to have partners, and those partners are more likely to drink. Other studies have found that alcohol featured in half of murders in Australia, Finland and Sweden, making it a more common factor than any weapon.
And if you are killed? The chances are no one will be convicted. Worldwide only 43% of murders result in someone being put behind bars. This, too, varies hugely: whereas Europe’s police solve eight out of ten murders and those in Asia clear up nearly half, three-quarters of killers in the Americas escape justice (a smaller share in North America; a higher one elsewhere in the region).
As long as that continues, there is little reason to think that the region’s fearsome murder rate will be tamed.
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