How many Iraqis died in the Iraq war? It's tough to say—the usual methods of calculating such things (like census counts) aren't available in the country, reports the Los Angeles Times. But one new study, published yesterday in PLOS Medicine, puts the figure at 461,000. Researchers polled 2,000 households around the country to arrive at the figure, asking people to recall family deaths between 2003 and 2011. This data gave them an estimated 405,000 deaths; they projected that another 55,800 would have been reported by families who fled the country, Al Jazeera America reports. Of those who died, 60% were estimated to have been killed in violence, with the remaining 40% victims of things like damaged infrastructure and inaccessible medical care.
"I hope that one of the takeaways from this paper will be that when we invade a country, there are many health consequences that aren’t directly related to violence," says one of the study authors, who predicts half of that 40% was due to lack of treatment for heart disease. Another figure that might surprise: Only 12% of violent deaths were linked to bombings (gunfire was the leading cause, at 63%). Of course, the study methodology is imperfect, though it has been regarded by many as better than the last attempt, which put the figure at 655,000. "I think that the period of contention is over, and the focus now should not be on putting the blame on anyone,” says the editor of the study, “but on how do we figure out rebuilding the health structure in this environment."