The rule that would require that in the event of a shipwreck, women and children would come first is undermined by a study of Swedish scientists who analyzed 18 maritime disasters.
Save Who Can seems to be the one and only motivation that prevails during a shipwreck. The men do not seem to show a great sense of sacrifice in putting women and children first in the canoes. The myth falls after the dissemination of the very serious study by scientists at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, who studied the survival rate of 15,000 castaways between 1852 and 2011. The men aboard a ship in distress are generally twice as likely to survive as women, while children are even worse off than women. “The sinking of the Titanic, during which 70% of women and children survived against 20% of men. The behavior seen on the Titanic seems to be at the origin of the ideas received on human behavior during disasters ”” specify the researchers. The survival rate of women is significantly lower in 11 shipwrecks and the difference is not sufficiently marked for the other five maritime disasters analyzed.
When captains order that priority be given to women and children, the latter have a better chance of surviving, as the example of the Titanic proves, on which officers would have even shot at men who did not respect the instructions. Nevertheless, the captain and his crew also tend to prioritize their own survival, as shown by the example of the sinking of the Costa Concordia in early 2012, when the Italian captain abandoned the liner, leaving behind 4,200 passengers, including 32 found death. According to the Swedish study, this behavior is not really unusual, since the crew members “have a higher survival rate than the passengers, and only 16 captains sank with their ship”.
Similar gender disparities have been noted by other studies of human behavior during natural disasters.