Alcohol a major cause in nearly half a million murders in 2012: UN study on global crime

Almost half a million people (437,000) across the world lost their lives in 2012 as a result of intentional homicide, according to a new study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Launching the Global Study on Homicide 2013 in London last Thursday (April 10, 2014), Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Director for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, said: “Too many lives are being tragically cut short, too many families and communities left shattered. There is an urgent need to understand how violent crime is plaguing countries around the world, particularly affecting young men but also taking a heavy toll on women.”

The consumption of alcohol and/or illicit drugs increases the risk of perpetrating homicide. In some countries, over half of homicide offenders acted under the influence of alcohol. Although the effects of illicit drugs are less well documented, cocaine and amphetamine-type stimulants have been associated with violent behaviour and homicide.

A serious threat to public health in many countries, alcohol can affect different types of interpersonal violence, including various types of interpersonal homicide.


While violence levels, including homicide rates, are influenced by the volume of alcohol consumption, they are even more influenced by patterns of alcohol consumption, with a number of studies indicating, for example, that hazardous drinking patterns are strongly associated with homicide rates.

Findings made by the European Homicide Monitor suggest that 82 per cent of homicide offenders in Finland in 2003-2006 were intoxicated with alcohol when they committed murder, whereas that was the case for slightly more than half of homicide offenders in Sweden. This research also suggests that the difference between total homicide rates in Finland and Sweden can to a large extent be attributed to alcohol-related homicides.

A Finnish study on intimate partner homicides between 2002 and 2010 showed that 73 per cent of all male offenders and 77 per cent of all female offenders were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the homicide. The study also noted that 62 per cent of the victims of male offenders and 77 per cent of the victims of female offenders were also intoxicated with alcohol.

Links between these phenomena are manifold and research has suggested that the use of alcohol increases both the occurrence and severity of intimate partner violence for the following reasons: alcohol use has a direct effect on both cognitive and physical function, reducing inhibition and leaving people less capable of negotiating a nonviolent resolution to conflicts within relationships; excessive drinking by one partner can exacerbate financial difficulties, childcare problems, infidelity or other family stressors, resulting in increased tensions in a relationships and the potential risk of violence between partners; and individual and societal beliefs that alcohol causes aggression can excuse or condone violent behaviour after drinking, and the use of alcohol can be an excuse for violent behaviour.

Global Study on Homicide website