Suicides Likelier in Homes With Guns: Study

TUESDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- The presence of guns in homes is strongly associated with higher suicide rates, a new U.S. study found.

Harvard School of Public Health researchers analyzed national data and found that states with higher rates of households with guns had significantly higher rates of suicide by men, women and children. In the 15 states with the highest rates of household gun ownership, twice as many people committed suicide than in the six states with the lowest levels of household gun ownership. All the states had similar populations.

Although guns are involved in only five percent of all fatal and non-fatal suicide attempts, more than 90 percent of all suicidal attempts using guns are fatal, the study said. By comparison, drugs are used in 75 percent of all suicide attempts but are fatal only three percent of the time.

Suicide is one of the 15 leading causes of death in the United States. Among people younger than 45, suicide is one of the top three causes of death. In 2004, guns were used by more than half of the 32,439 Americans who committed suicide.

The study authors said that gun owners need to take steps to make their homes safer. The findings are published in the April issue of the Journal of Trauma.

"Removing all firearms from one's home is one of the most effective and straightforward steps that household decision-makers can take to reduce the risk of suicide," study lead author Matthew Miller, assistant professor of health policy and management, said in a prepared statement.

"Removing firearms may be especially effective in reducing the risk of suicide among adolescents and other potentially impulsive members of their home. Short of removing all firearms, the next best thing is to make sure that all guns in homes are very securely locked up and stored separately from secured ammunition. In a nation where more than half of all suicides are gun suicides and where more than one in three homes have firearms, one cannot talk about suicide without talking about guns," Miller said.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Harvard Public School of Health, news release, April 10, 2007

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