Threats to security and ischaemic heart disease deaths: the case of homicides in Mexico

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Abstract

Background:

Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) ranks as the leading cause of death worldwide. Whereas much attention focuses on behavioural and lifestyle factors, less research examines the role of acute, ambient stressors. An unprecedented rise in homicides in Mexico over the past decade and the attendant media coverage and publicity have raised international concern regarding its potential health sequelae. We hypothesize that the rise in homicides in Mexico acts as an ecological threat to security and elevates the risk of both transient ischaemic events and myocardial infarctions, thereby increasing IHD deaths.

Methods:

We applied time-series methods to monthly counts of IHD deaths and homicides in Mexico for 156 months spanning January 2000 to December 2012. Methods controlled for strong temporal patterns in IHD deaths, the unemployment rate and changes in the population size at risk.

Results:

After controlling for trend and seasonality in IHD deaths, a 1-unit increase in the logged count of homicides coincides with a 7% increase in the odds of IHD death in that same month (95% confidence interval: 0.04 — 0.10). Inference remains robust to additional sensitivity checks, including a state-level fixed effects analysis.

Conclusions:

Our findings indicate that the elevated level of homicides in Mexico serves as a population-level stressor that acutely increases the risk of IHD death. This research adds to the growing literature documenting the role of ambient threats, or perceived threats, to security on cardiovascular health.

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