Youth Suicide Higher In States With High Gun Ownership


State-level data shows that youth suicide rates are actually higher in the states with high levels of household gun ownership. Is it time to take action to eliminate these risks?

Youth Suicide Rates

Suicide rates among the youth are alarmingly high, and data suggests that perhaps gun ownership may be linked to higher suicide rates. However, there still some who argue that perhaps the relationship is due to gun households having higher rates of depression and suicide ideation.

To truly understand the disturbing trend, a team of researchers studied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data on gun ownership in 2004, as well as data on youth suicide rates of people ages 10 to 19 from 2005 to 2015.

Researchers of the study now published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that gun ownership was strongly linked to youth suicide, even after accounting for factors such as depression, suicide plans, and other suicide attempts.

Gun Ownership

Specifically, researchers noted that for every 10 percent increase in household gun ownership was a corresponding 27.4 percent increase in youth suicide rates. Moreover, in the 10 states with the highest youth suicide rates, an average of 52.5 percent of households owned guns. In contrast, in the 10 states with the lowest suicide rates, only 20 percent of households owned guns.

For instance, Alaska with nearly 60 percent of household gun ownership has 15.2 suicides per 100,000 people aged 19 and below, while New Jersey with 2.6 youth suicides per 100,000 has a household gun ownership of 11.4 percent.

Incidentally, Alabama and Mississippi have high gun ownership rates of over 50 percent, but had low youth suicide rates of about 4.5 per 100,000. Researchers surmise that this might be because both locations have a high African-American population, and African-Americans have been found to be less likely to die by suicide and less likely to own guns.

Suicide Attempts

Researchers also note that there are states with very high levels of suicide attempts but low levels of actual suicides, likely due to the states’ having low gun ownership. This means that even if they do attempt suicide, they are not successful because their means was less lethal than guns.

Simply put, the youths in states with higher levels of gun ownership are likelier to succeed in committing suicide because they have easier access to firearms.

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