Life expectancy at birth being a barometer of social well-being, it also depicts the hidden violence of social neglect. Life spans below the highest national averages may thus be seen as unnecessary loss of life primarily due to hunger and to illnesses related to unsafe water and poor sanitation.
In the world today 2,000,000,000 people live on incomes below $500 per year. At least one person in five is trapped in absolute poverty. In the US, militarily the most powerful nation in the world, the national poverty rate is now the highest in 17 years; there are 34 million people officially classified as poor under USA poverty standards.
Worldwide, 600,000,000 have no jobs or are less than fully employed. In the Third World, one in three who wants to work cannot find a regular job. In all countries, it is the young people who are hardest hit by unemployment; in the USA half of black teenagers are jobless.
11,000,000 babies around the world die before their first birthday. Relative to births, seven times as many infants die in the poorest countries as in the richest. As of 1980, less than 10% of children in the Third World were being immunized against the six common diseases of childhood; 5,000,000 died from them yearly.
Structural violence (social neglect) is more destructive of human life than behavioural violence (war). Between 1945 and 1983 there were 15 million needless deaths per year from social neglect, almost as many as the 16 million war deaths over the entire period.
Social neglect, like military affluence, grows out of excessive militarization. The relation between the military assumption of political power and the official use of violence within countries, between war and a heavy death toll among civilians, are the already perceptible effects of an arms race out of control. Beyond these, there are far-reaching effects on society that are more hidden but no less destructive of human life. An intensive arms buildup kills whether or not the weapons are put to use.