Could the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia have had an impact on the number of baby boys who were born in Malta?
Maltese doctor Thomas Calleja, who works at Mater Dei Hospital, has explored a theory that traumatic national events result in temporary dips in male-to-female live birth ratios.
To do this, he studied birth data in Malta in the months preceding and following Caruana Galizia’s assassination in October 2017 as well as that of Irish investigative journalist Veronica Guerin in June 1996.
In his study, which was published in the international journal Early Human Development, Calleja found that the male-to-female birth ratio in both countries did indeed dip significantly following both assassinations.
Both these assassinations represented a massive shock to the psyche of their respective nations.
These flashbulb memories, where everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news, cause distress at a population level. Since before and after birth, the rearing of a male is thought to be more resource-consuming, they are selectively removed in utero in times of stress.
Similar dips in the male-to-female live birth ratio have been noted abroad after shocking events including 9/11 and other terrorist attacks.
“These findings add weight to the argument that national stressful events may be related to dips in the male-to-female ratio,” he wrote. “Assassinations of journalists may have important population mental health implications.” This is in line with similar concerns raised by local psychiatrists and the Richmond Foundation.