For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

The Social Environment Can Affect Homicide Rates in Latin America

Ciudad de Mexico graffiti wall

Philadelphia, PA, March 31, 2023



A recent study published in The Lancet Regional Health reveals important associations between homicide rates in youth and young adults and the characteristics of the social and built environment in 315 urban areas in Latin America.


Worldwide, violence accounts for over 1.3 million deaths (about 2.5% of all mortality). Even though Latin America accounts for only 8% of the world’s population, 37% of all the world’s homicides occurred in the region in 2012.


Researchers from the Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) Project found that higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was linked with lower homicide rates in the region, an association likely explained in part by better access to job opportunities and better living conditions. Higher levels of education were also associated with a lower homicide rate among both men and women. On the other hand, higher Gini index (a measure of income inequalities) and higher city landscape isolation (a measure of how isolated the component parts of a city are) were associated with higher homicide rates.


“We found high rates of homicides in cities of Latin American countries and wide variations in homicide rates across cities. Characteristics of cities' social and built environments are relevant to understanding the high rates of homicides in young people and young adults.  Lack of economic and employment opportunities, drug trafficking, abusive alcohol consumption, patriarchal culture leading to ‘machismo’, lack of leisure activities, and interactions with law enforcement are some of the potential determinants of homicides in young people”, said Amélia Augusta de Lima Friche, lead author of the study.


The study also describes patterns of violence across Latin American countries, where El Salvador, Colombia, and Brazil presented higher homicide rates and Argentina, Chile and Peru had the lowest. Moreover, the homicide rates were about 11 times higher among males than in females in the same age group.


Violence is a public health issue that we found to vary a lot between cities. This points to characteristics of these cities as the main drivers of violence among young people”, highlighted Usama Bilal, Assistant professor at Drexel University and author of the study.


Homicides in Latin America represent an urgent public health challenge. Studies like this provide evidence of the role of addressing inequality and improving education, social conditions, and physical integration of cities in contributing to the reduction of homicides across the region.



Urban Health in Latin America (SALURBAL) is a research project that aims to study how urban policies and the environment affect the health of residents of Latin American cities. The results of this project will serve as a reference to inform future policies and interventions to make cities healthier, more equitable, and sustainable throughout the world. SALURBAL is funded by the Wellcome Trust.


The Lancet Regional Health is a suite of open access general medical journals publishing high-quality, evidence-based research focused on six regions of the world.


In addition to de Lima-Friche and BilaL, authors of the study include Diez Roux (Drexel University), Moreira (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais), Sarmiento (Universidad de los Andes), de Salles (Federal University of Minas Gerais), Prado-Galbarro (INSP), Briceño (Federal University of Ceará), Alazraqui (Universidad Nacional de Lanús), and Teixeira (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais).


For more information, contact Andrea Bolinaga at