Epidemiology of international terrorism involving fatal outcomes in developed countries (1994-2003)

Eur J Epidemiol. 2005;20(5):375-81. doi: 10.1007/s10654-005-4503-0.


We aimed to describe the public health burden and epidemiology of international terrorism (i.e. involving foreign nationals) with fatal outcomes in developed countries. Data was abstracted from a United States Department of State database for 21 'established market economy' countries and 18 'former socialist economies of Europe' for 1994-2003. To put the findings in a wider context, comparisons were made with WHO data on all homicides for each country. A total of 32 international terrorist attacks causing fatalities were identified over the 10-year period. These resulted in 3299 deaths, giving a crude annual mortality rate of 0.3 per million population. The mortality burden attributable to international terrorism in these countries was 208 times less than that attributable to other homicide. Even for the country with the highest mortality burden from international terrorism (the United States), this ratio was 60. There was no statistically significant trend in the number of attacks over time, but the attack severity (in terms of deaths per attack) was higher in the latter part of the 10-year period. A number of limitations with this data set were identified. If a more rigorous definition of 'international terrorism' was used, then this would substantially reduce the total number of such attacks defined in this way. In conclusion, there is a need for better quality data and improved classification systems for describing international terrorism. Nevertheless, the available data indicates that the mortality burden from international terrorism in developed countries is small compared to that from other homicide.

MeSH terms

  • Developed Countries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homicide / trends
  • Humans
  • Mortality
  • Terrorism / statistics & numerical data*
  • Terrorism / trends
  • Time Factors