Study: U.S. Female Murder Rate High

A Harvard School of Public Health study shows the United States has the highest rate of female homicides in the industrial world.

The study, which surveyed the most recent data on murders in the world’s highest-income nations, found that in this group of countries 70 percent of all female homicides—and 84 percent of all female homicides committed with a gun—occurred in the United States. But American women make up only 32 percent of the female population of these countries.

“We do have a problem,” said Professor of Health Policy David Hemenway, the study’s principle author. “We’re not just 20 percent worse or 40 percent worse. You’re five times more likely to die from a gun if you are a woman living in the United States.”

According to the study conducted by Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center and released last week in the Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association, a woman in the United States is three time more likely to be murdered than a woman in Canada, five times more than a woman in Germany and eight times more than in a woman in England or Wales.

The firearm-related death rate is 11 times higher for Americans females than for females in other high income nations.

Hemenway said the study was meant to provide data that previous studies on homicides—which typically do not consider the gender of victims—failed to provide. Since men are much more likely to be murdered than women, statistics that consider all homicides masks specific data pertaining to women, he said.

The study noted that previous investigations of American female homicide victims had found women typically were killed under different circumstances than men. While men are usually killed by people unknown to them, women are killed by “intimates and ex-intimates.”

While the study does not draw any conclusions as to why firearm homicides are so much higher in the United States, according to Hemenway the data does suggest that the country’s comparatively lax gun laws could be a cause.

It is much easier to obtain a gun, particularly in the secondary market, in the United States than in the other countries studied. Nations that require licences to own a gun and firearms registration generally have lower rates of gun violence.

A previous study by Matthew Miller, Deborah Azrael and Hemenway, published in the March edition of the Journal of Urban Health, noted that women are more likely to be murdered by a gun in regions of the U.S. where firearms are more prevalent.

But, other than homicide, the United States’ crime rate is on par with most other nations, Hemenway said.

“The U.S. is very different from other nations in that gun deaths are so high,” he said. “We’re so out of line with other countries; we’re an anomaly.”