Science & Tech

Researchers link firearms, suicide rate

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Suicide rates in the U.S. have remained steady for past 50 years

The Harvard Injury Control Research Center (HICRC) at the Harvard School of Public Health has investigated suicide and its relationship to firearms, revealing important statistical information about the problem. To put suicide rates in perspective, from 1979 to 1999, more than 448,000 Americans died of AIDS or HIV-related illnesses while, during the same period, more than 626,225 people killed themselves, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine. More than three times the number of Americans committed suicide from 1964 to 1973 than were killed in the Vietnam War during the same period. Studies indicate that having a gun is a strong risk factor for suicide and that risk is elevated for all age groups, said Matthew Miller, associate director of HICRC. Research at HICRC has indicated that states with high levels of gun ownership have higher rates of overall suicides compared to states with low levels of gun ownership. Both men and women use firearms to kill themselves, Miller said. Far more men and women attempt suicide using drugs and knives, but the case fatality rate from gun attempts is so high that the majority of suicide deaths are firearm deaths.