Firearms and Suicide Risk

Daniel Borota, Paul Nestadt, M.D.
Firearms and Suicide Risk is a topic covered in the Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Guide.

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  • Suicide is defined as "death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with an intent to die as a result of the behavior".[1]
    • The most recently reported U.S. suicide rate is 13.26 per 100,000 persons, the highest since 1986. On average 121 people die by suicide every day, making it the 10th leading cause of death overall, and 2nd leading cause of death for Americans under 40.[2]
    • Suicide rates have been steadily increasing, up 24% since 1999.[3] This is in stark contrast to the general trend of decreasing mortality overall, following improvements in health and medical advances.
    • The rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged, white men. White males accounted for 70% of suicides in 2015.[4]
    • Males are roughly 4x more likely than females to die by suicide, although females attempt suicide 3x as often.[2]
      • This discrepancy is usually credited to the male preference for more fatal methods of suicide attempt, chiefly firearms.[5]
  • The U.S. has the highest rate of firearm ownership per capita in the world. It is estimated that one out of every three U.S. households contains a firearm.[6] Two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides.[7]
    • Unsurprisingly, firearms (particularly handguns) are the most common means of suicide, representing almost half of all suicides, more than all other methods combined.[2]
    • Firearms are not only the most common method of suicide, but also the most lethal, with an 85% fatality rate.[8] See Graph

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Last updated: December 11, 2017