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'Women and children first' rule is a myth, ship disaster research shows

A Swedish study of 18 maritime disasters over 100 years shows men are far more likely to survive.

Titanic 12 04 13Enlarge
The Titanic sinking in 1912 was one of the few maritime disasters where the 'women and children first' rule was largely applied. ( /AFP/Getty Images)

Two Swedish researchers have completed a study into some of the world's most famous disasters and concluded that the 'women and children first' rule is a myth.

Economists Mikeal Elinder and Oscar Erixon from Uppsala University north of Stockholm say that, in fact, men have almost double the chance of surviving a ship wreck as women, AFP reports.

"There is this popular culture myth promoted through the Titanic film and others, where women and children are led to the lifeboats and the men stand back," Erixon is quoted as saying.  "But it really doesn't usually go well for women in ship wrecks".

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News.com.au says that the men looked at 18 maritime disasters, involving 15,000 people, from the HMS Birkenhead which ran aground in the Indian Ocean in 1852 to the MV Bulgaria tourist ship that sank on Russia's Volga River last year.

They found that only 17.8% of the women survived as opposed to 34.5% per cent of the men.

However, the BBC notes that the 1912 Titanic disaster was "a rare exception", reportedly because the captain threatened to shoot those who disobeyed.

The news service says that the findings show that in real life-or-death situations its "every man for himself".

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120413/women-and-children-first-rule-myth-ship-disaster-research-shows