Recent psychopathology, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in households with and without firearms: findings from the National Comorbidity Study Replication
- Dr M Miller, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Kresge Building, Room 305, Boston, MA 02115, USA;
- Accepted 11 April 2009
Objective: To assess the relationship between firearm ownership and possible psychiatric confounders of the firearm–suicide relationship.
Methods: Multivariate logistic regression was used to estimate the association between living in a home with firearms and 12-month occurrence of major Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM)-IV disorders and suicidal behaviour among respondents to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a household survey of 9282 adults aged 18+. Analyses controlled for sociodemographic characteristics including age, sex, race/ethnicity, educational attainment and poverty.
Results: Approximately one in three Americans reported living in a home with firearms. People living in a home with firearms were no more or less likely than people in homes without firearms to have recent (past year) anxiety disorders (OR = 1.0, 95% CI 0.8 to 1.2), mood disorders (OR = 0.9, 95% CI 0.7 to 1.1) or substance dependence and/or abuse (OR = 0.9, 95% CI 0.6 to 1.3). Past year suicidal ideation (OR = 0.8, 95% CI 0.5 to 1.3) and suicide planning (OR = 0.5, 95% CI 0.2 to 1.4) were also not associated with living in households with firearms. Having made a suicide attempt over the previous year was the only outcome more common among participants reporting that they currently lived in a home with firearms.
Conclusions: The previously reported association between household firearm ownership and heightened risk of suicide is not explained by a higher risk of psychopathology among gun-owning families. As there are Americans with suicidal ideation and/or significant and recent psychiatric disorders currently living in homes with firearms, future work should focus on understanding the impediments to effectively communicating the suicide risk associated with household firearms.
Competing interests: None.