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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


SWART, L; BUTHELEZI, S  and  SEEDAT, M. The incidence and characteristics of homicides in elderly compared with non-elderly age groups in Johannesburg, South Africa. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2019, vol.109, n.6, pp.437-442. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND. Even though the rate of eldercide (homicide in the age group >60 years) in South Africa (SA) is higher than the global rate, it receives little attention compared with homicide in younger (<60 years) age groups. OBJECTIVES: To (i) establish the proportion and rates of eldercide relative to homicide in young adult and middle-aged populations, and determine whether proportions of homicide across the age groups differ by race; and (ii) determine differences in homicide victim and incident characteristics across the three age categories and establish whether these differences vary by race METHODS. This retrospective study analysed homicide data for adults (aged >15 years) drawn from the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System (NIMSS) for the City of Johannesburg, SA (2001 - 2010). Percentages and rates were used to describe the incidence of eldercide (age >60 years) relative to homicide in middle age (35 - 59 years) and youth (15 - 34 years). Eldercide and middle-age and youth homicides were compared by sex, race, weapon used, scene of injury, day of the week and time of death. RESULTS. For the 10-year period 2001 - 2010, NIMSS registered a total of 14 678 adult homicide deaths for Johannesburg. Of these, a very small proportion (3.8%) were eldercides, 46.9% were middle-age homicides, and the majority (58.4%) were young adult homicides. The average annual eldercide rate (23.1/100 000) was also lower than the rate for the middle-aged (46.9/100 000) and young adult (58.4/100 000) groups. However, the difference in rates between the age groups decreased considerably over the study period. Race-specific patterns were observed in the distribution of homicide across age groups. Compared with the circumstantial patterns for youth and middle-age homicides, eldercide involved higher proportions of females and white victims, and greater use of blunt force and strangulation. Whereas homicides in the other age groups tended to occur in public spaces and during weekends and nights, eldercides occurred mainly in a home, during the week and during daytime. CONCLUSIONS. The characteristics of eldercide differ from those of youth and middle-age homicides. The specificities of the circumstances suggest that interventions should take cognisance of the temporal and spatial dimensions of eldercide and go beyond the regular security and policing measures to ensure the safety of the elderly in Johannesburg.

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