Fact Check: Norwegian Newspaper Did NOT Report That 5 Years Old Was Average Age Of Palestinians Killed In Gaza

Fact Check

  • by: Lead Stories Staff
Fact Check: Norwegian Newspaper Did NOT Report That 5 Years Old Was Average Age Of Palestinians Killed In Gaza Not Measured

Did VG, a Norwegian newspaper, report that the average age of Palestinians killed in Gaza was 5 years old, as claimed by an image on social media? No, that's not true: The newspaper reported that 5-year-olds represented the age group with the highest number of people killed in Gaza between October 7 and October 26, 2023. Taking the largest age group from a dataset is not how an average is calculated. Based on the data in VG's article, Lead Stories calculated that the average age in the data is closer to 26 years.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Instagram on November 20, 2023. The post included a graphic that read:

This is the average age of all the Palestinians murdered in the past month.
5 years old.
Source: Norweigan Newspaper Verdens Gang 11/8/2023

This is how the post looked on Instagram at the time of the writing of this fact check:

average age palestinians killed IG post.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Fri Nov 24 19:15:22 2023 UTC)

The article referenced in the post was published by the Norwegian newspaper VG on November 8, 2023 (archived here). Lead Stories read the article, originally published in Norwegian, in English using Google's "Translate this page" feature in the Chrome search bar. In English, the article is titled "The death list from Gaza: Most five-year-olds killed."

The article uses data from the Ministry of Health in Gaza that tracked the number of deaths in the 2023 Hamas-Israel conflict from its start on October 7, 2023, until October 26, 2023. The data contained 6,747 deaths. VG organized the individuals who died by their age.

A chart created by the newspaper shows that the 5-year-old category had the highest number of casualties. The article states that "184 Palestinian five-year-olds were killed up to 26 October." Statistically, this measure of the most frequent value in a dataset is known as the mode (archived here). A screenshot of the chart is shown below:

vg deaths by age chart.png
(Source: VG screenshot taken on Fri Nov 24 20:00:42 2023 UTC)

However, just because 5 years old was the mode of the dataset does not mean that 5 years old was the average age of Palestinians killed in Gaza from October 7 to October 26, 2023. Generally, an average refers to the mean of a dataset (archived here). Although the mode is a form of an average, it is less likely to be used when colloquially referencing an average. The mean is calculated by dividing the total of all of a dataset's values by the total count of values in a dataset. An example of such a calculation can be found here (archived here).

The article did not explicitly mention an "average" or "mean" age of the deaths.

Lead Stories used the data provided in the article to calculate the average (mean) age of those killed from October 7 to October 26, 2023. Referencing the table created by VG, we used Google Sheets to calculate the total number of years lived by each individual as reported in the dataset. We then divided that number by 6,747, which is the total number of casualties in the dataset. This calculation resulted in a mean: 25.97, which is closest to 26 years old.

However, this fact check is not meant to confirm or deny the accuracy of the numbers used in the dataset; our calculations were only made to demonstrate that 5 years old could not possibly be the average (mean) age based on the numbers in the dataset.

Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims about the Hamas-Israel conflict can be found here.

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