Firearms and Suicide Risk

Aaron I. Esagoff, B.S., Lisa Young , Paul Nestadt, M.D.


  • Suicide is defined as "death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with an intent to die as a result of the behavior".[1]
  • Suicide is the overall tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death for young Americans (aged 10-39).
    • Firearms accounted for approximately one-half (24,292; 53%) of suicides in 2020.[2]
    • Completed suicides are predominantly male (78%); suicide rates are over 3.5 times higher in males than females.[3]
      • 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; in 2009, there was a 90.9% case fatality in men vs. 70% in women for firearm-related suicides.[4]
  • The U.S. has the highest rate of firearm ownership per capita globally. It is estimated that one out of every three U.S. households contains a firearm.[5] Two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides.[6]
    • Unsurprisingly, firearms (particularly handguns) are the most common means of suicide, representing almost half of all suicides, more than all other methods combined.[2]
      • ​​Firearm use is more common in older adults (especially men) and accounts for over 70% of all suicide deaths for older adults.[7]
  • Firearms are not only the most common method of suicide but also the most lethal, with an 85% fatality rate.[2] See Graph
  • Gun ownership is tightly positively correlated with the suicide rate.[6]

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Last updated: September 3, 2022