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J Forensic Sci. 2002 Jul;47(4):837-42.

Discovery of decomposed and mummified corpses in the domestic setting--a marker of social isolation?

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Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Vienna, Austria.


Mass media reports attribute the occurrence of decomposed or mummified corpses in a domestic setting mainly to an increasing social isolation of elderly people. Not much is known about the demographic and medical conditions under which individuals are found months or even years after death in their homes. For this study, autopsy reports of individuals found dead and mummified or decomposed between 1993 and 1997 with those from 1963 to 1967 were retrospectively analyzed. Between 1993 and 1997, a total number of 320 individuals were found decomposed at home compared to 412 such cases between 1963 and 1967. The proportion of individuals older than 64 years was significantly higher during the 1990s study period. Furthermore, the proportion of deaths attributable to natural causes was significantly lower during the 1990s, whereas the rate of suicides was nearly three times higher.

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