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Study Links Youth Suicide and Gun Owning Households

Every day, an average of three youths between the ages of 10 and 19 die by firearm-related suicide, according to the study.

Study Links Youth Suicide and Gun Owning Households

For every 10 percent increase in household gun ownership, the youth suicide rate increased by 26.9 percent.

A new study focusing on suicide rates among U.S. children and teens has linked the rising rates with gun ownership.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine by a team from Boston University, took data on a state-by-state level, looking at household gun ownership in 2004 and youth suicide and attempted suicide rates from 2005-2015. 

Researchers wanted to determine if guns in the house could be creating an environment that increases the risk of suicide in teens and children.

They found that for every 10 percent increase in household gun ownership, the youth suicide rate increased by 26.9 percent.

“Household gun ownership was the single biggest predictor of youth suicide rate in a state,” said Dr. Michael  Siegel, an author of the study.

In Alaska, the youth suicide rate is 15.2 suicides per 100,000 people 19-years-old and younger and just under 60 percent of households have guns, the study said.

In South Dakota, the suicide rate is 14.9 per 100,000, with just under 60 percent of homes with guns.

In New York and New Jersey, the youth suicide rate is 2.7 and 2.6 per 100,000. New York saw 18.5 percent of households with guns and New Jersey had 11.4 percent.

Not all states followed the same pattern, however.

Mississippi and Alabama both had gun ownership rates of over 50 percent but had lower suicide rates, with both showing around 4.5 suicides per 100,000 people.

Siegel believes culture could be the factor, specifically the larger African-American populations in both states. He says African-Americans are less likely to die by suicide or own guns than whites.

Siegel, who has been studying the relationship between gun ownership and homicide and suicide, says although the link may seem obvious to some, there were gaps that needed to be investigated, reports NBC News.

“Some argued that, isn’t it possible that gun households are systematically different from non-gun households? In particular, is it possible that there are just higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation in a gun household?” he said.

Data from the National Violent Injury Statistic System indicated that 82 percent of firearm-related suicides among youth involved a firearm owned by a household member.

The CDC found that people without mental health conditions are more likely to be male and die by firearm. Image: cdc.gov

Every day, an average of three youths between the ages of 10 and 19 die by firearm-related suicide, the study said.

“The availability of firearms is contributing to an increase in the actual number of suicides, not just leading youth to substitute other means of suicide for guns,” said Anita Knopov, another researcher on the study.

What do the researchers suggest? Implementing programs and policies, especially in states with high levels of household gun ownership.

Experts believe guns are associated with suicide at such a high degree because they are quick and immediately lethal, with less chance of failure.

“Firearms are 2.6 times more lethal than any other means of suicide; thus, access to firearms might be expected to contribute to a higher incidence of suicide,” the team noted.

In June, the CDC reported that suicide rates were up by 30 percent across the country since 1999.

About the Author

Katie Malafronte
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Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety's Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS's Web Editor since 2018.

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6 responses to “Study Links Youth Suicide and Gun Owning Households”

  1. Rick says:

    How many of these kids are on psychotropic drugs that have side effects of suicidal and homicidal thoughts? Every one of these mass shooters, except for the terror incidents, was on psychotropic drugs. The problem is guns, it’s the mental health aspect and over use of harmful medications that are causing problems. Combined with schools that have no discipline or character development, it’s a horrible situation.

  2. Dr. Zachary Campbell says:

    Two problems with this study. First, African Americans do not fit the narrative. If this was a universal problem, ownership would equal a risk to all. It doesn’t. Therefore the true problem isn’t the ownership end of this equation. There is, by the study authors own admission, a cultural component that must be addressed to decrease suicides. Second, consider that fact all gun related fatalities have been steadily decreasing, which includes suicide and justifiable homicide, over the past 20 years. Gun owners are stigmatized and systematically punished if they seek mental health professionals. They, therefore, systematically have self excluded themselves form getting help from conditions such as depression. This study needed to see how many of the kids had been previously treated for depression, reported depression to a school counselor but were not treated for depression, and how many had been and were currently taking medication for depression.

  3. Spencer Uhl says:

    “Firearms are 2.6 times more lethal than any other means of suicide; thus, access to firearms might be expected to contribute to a higher incidence of suicide,” the team noted.”
    This is an odd quote. Suicide by definition is an intentional harmful act resulting in death. Anything else ins an attempted suicide or accidental in nature. This means ALL means used to commit suicide are 100% lethal. In my jurisdiction I have a bridge that spans the Snake River Canyon. The bridge is 186 feet above the water and has rocky slopes on either side. So far 100% of those that committed suicide by jumping died. This makes the this means of committing suicide 100% lethal. We also see a large number of intentional deaths by hanging and overdose. Idaho is one of the highest gun ownership states, per capita or otherwise. Though firearms account for a large number of the suicides in Idaho, the percentage used by youth as you define it are actually quite low. The highest percentage of suicides by firearms are actually committed by 45-54 males. Those who would be legally able to purchase firearms anyways. The telling statistic in my state is 90% of those that completes or attempts suicide have are mentally ill and under treatment. We treat their depression with just enough medication to allow them to carry our their plan.

  4. George Hunter says:

    I wonder if the study controlled for the legalization of drugs, gender “dysphoria,” rampant romanticization of suicide in music and television and all the other cultural upheavals and challenges that young people wrestle with. I monitor school email accounts and 75% or better relate to lyrics related to suicide, emogi’s related to same, etc. And lets not forget about micro-aggressions, toxic masculinity, cultural appropriation, and white privilege.

    I grew up in a time when firearms were a lot less likely to be locked-up (my father kept ours on a pegboard in the basement), but I knew if I touched them without his permission, there’d be hell to pay. I also don’t remember a single suicide occurring in my 4 years in high school, much less school shootings. However, its far easier to blame correlations between homeowners with firearms than fix what ails our society.

  5. Drew Neckar says:

    Not to get too political, but I think that the researchers may have missed a key variable. They call out that suicide attempt prevalence rates are fairly consistent across all states, but that the number of suicides resulting in death (suicide rates) are higher in states with higher rates of firearms ownership.

    What they miss is that those areas with higher rates of firearms ownership also tend to be more rural which results in lower population density and significantly longer EMS response and transport times to a trauma center. Looking at the raw data there appears to be a greater correlation of suicide rates to population density than there is to firearms ownership rates.

    Based on this, I would argue that the efficacy of a suicide attempt is impacted not only by the presence of a firearm in the household, but also by the availability of effective medical care so making sweeping public policy conclusions based on these results is a bit hasty.

  6. Tony Ramaeker says:

    If Campus Safety continues to post articles that are politically charged and ridiculously loose in findings, I’m dropping you! I’m tired of nonsensical “studies” that prove what the authors set out to prove in the first place. I can form a research study that proves having dirty fingernails increases the likelihood of driving a Toyota. I just poll the owners of Toyotas that have dirty fingernails.

    Blaming guns for suicide is like blaming doctors for birthrates. The doctor delivers the baby, sure, but wouldn’t the baby come anyway? Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and anti-psychotics carry black-label warnings by the FDA. Those say (paraphrasing) that taking the medication can make you suicidal or aggressive. It also indicates that it’s not intended for adolescents to be taking them. Adolescents are still developing brain connectivity from the impulsive, immediate reward-seeking part of the brain to the frontal lobes that ferret out reason. Adding psychotropic drugs into an adolescent development blocks this function. Maybe these idiots from Boston University could study that and shut down the money-line to the manufacturers.

    Stop posting this nonsense!

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