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The association between changes in household firearm ownership and rates of suicide in the United States, 1981–2002
  1. M Miller,
  2. D Azrael,
  3. L Hepburn,
  4. D Hemenway,
  5. S J Lippmann
  1. Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M Miller
 Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Room 305, Boston, MA 02115, USA; mmiller{at}hsph.harvard.edu

Abstract

Objective: To explore whether recent declines in household firearm prevalence in the United States were associated with changes in rates of suicide for men, women, and children.

Methods: This time series study compares changes in suicide rates to changes in household firearm prevalence, 1981–2002. Multivariate analyses adjust for age, unemployment, per capita alcohol consumption, and poverty. Regional fixed effects controlled for cross sectional, time invariant differences among the four census regions. Standard errors of parameter estimates are adjusted to account for serial autocorrelation of observations over time.

Results: Over the 22 year study period household firearm ownership rates declined across all four regions. In multivariate analyses, each 10% decline in household firearm ownership was associated with significant declines in rates of firearm suicide, 4.2% (95% CI 2.3% to 6.1%) and overall suicide, 2.5% (95% CI 1.4% to 3.6%). Changes in non-firearm suicide were not associated with changes in firearm ownership. The magnitude of the association between changes in household firearm ownership and changes in rates of firearm and overall suicide was greatest for children: for each 10% decline in the percentage of households with firearms and children, the rate of firearm suicide among children 0–19 years of age dropped 8.3% (95% CI 6.1% to 10.5%) and the rate of overall suicide dropped 4.1% (2.3% to 5.9%).

Conclusion: Changes in household firearm ownership over time are associated with significant changes in rates of suicide for men, women, and children. These findings suggest that reducing availability to firearms in the home may save lives, especially among youth.

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