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Multicenter Study
, 336 (7659), 1482-6

Fifty Years of Violent War Deaths From Vietnam to Bosnia: Analysis of Data From the World Health Survey Programme

Multicenter Study

Fifty Years of Violent War Deaths From Vietnam to Bosnia: Analysis of Data From the World Health Survey Programme

Ziad Obermeyer et al. BMJ.

Erratum in

  • BMJ. 2008 Jun 28;336(7659): doi: 10.1136/bmj.a498.


Objective: To provide an accurate estimate of violent war deaths.

Design: Analysis of survey data on mortality, adjusted for sampling bias and censoring, from nationally representative surveys designed to measure population health. Estimated deaths compared with estimates in database of passive reports.

Setting: 2002-3 World health surveys, in which information was collected from one respondent per household about sibling deaths, including whether such deaths resulted from war injuries.

Main outcome measure: Estimated deaths from war injuries in 13 countries over 50 years.

Results: From 1955 to 2002, data from the surveys indicated an estimated 5.4 million violent war deaths (95% confidence interval 3.0 to 8.7 million) in 13 countries, ranging from 7000 in the Republic of Congo [corrected] to 3.8 million in Vietnam. From 1995 to 2002 survey data indicate 36,000 war deaths annually (16,000 to 71,000) in the 13 countries studied. Data from passive surveillance, however, indicated a figure of only a third of this. On the basis of the relation between world health survey data and passive reports, we estimate 378,000 globalwar deaths annually from 1985-94, the last years for which complete passive surveillance data were available.

Conclusions: The use of data on sibling history from peacetime population surveys can retrospectively estimate mortality from war. War causes more deaths than previously estimated, and there is no evidence to support a recent decline in war deaths.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: None declared.


Fig 1 Fraction of all violent war deaths by age and sex in 13 survey countries, 1955-2002. As figure considers only war deaths, bars sum to 1
Fig 2 Trend in violent war deathsper year (thousands) in Vietnam, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, and Bosnia: world health survey (WHS) estimates with 95% confidence intervals and Uppsala/PRIO data with low-high range (where available)
Fig 3 Violent war deaths per year (thousands) in 13 survey countries: world health survey (WHS) estimates with 95% confidence intervals and data from Uppsala/PRIO with low-high range (where available)
Fig 4 World health survey (WHS) estimates against Uppsala/PRIO data for total violent war deaths(thousands) from 1955 to 2002, with equivalence line at which survey and Uppsala/PRIO estimates are equal (log scale)
Fig 5 Uppsala/PRIO violent war deaths per year from 1945 to 1994 and adjusted war deaths per year (thousands) with 95% confidence intervals, based on relation between Uppsala/PRIO data and world health survey (WHS) estimates

Comment in

  • Measuring deaths from conflict.
    Garfield R. Garfield R. BMJ. 2008 Jun 28;336(7659):1446-7. doi: 10.1136/bmj.a146. Epub 2008 Jun 19. BMJ. 2008. PMID: 18566044 Free PMC article.

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