Why do we measure firearm suicides?
Firearm-related death is a leading cause of premature deaths in the U.S.,(1) and suicides make up 60% of these deaths.(2) Firearm-related suicide rates are highest among individuals aged 45 years and older, and especially among persons older than 65. Men are seven times more likely to commit suicide by firearm than women, and non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Native residents are at highest risk of firearm-related suicides among major race/ethnic groups.(1) Economic stressors and traumatic events are risk factors for suicidal thoughts (ideation) and completed suicides among adults, including suicide by firearm. For example, the 2009 financial crisis was associated with a significant increase in both suicidal ideation and suicides among adults,(3,4) and the COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with an increase in mental distress and suicidal ideation among U.S. adults.(5)
How do we measure firearm suicides?
This metric uses data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) to measure deaths from intentional self-harm by handgun discharge (ICD code X72), intentional self-harm by rifle, shotgun, and larger firearm discharge (ICD code X73), and intentional self-harm by other and unspecified firearm and gun discharge (ICD code X74).
Strengths of Metric
Limitations of Metric
NVSS includes comprehensive death records from all states and federal jurisdictions. It provides the most complete firearm-related suicide count, compared to other available data sources.(6,7)
This metric only captures suicides by firearms, not all suicides. Firearm suicides make up just over half of all suicides in the U.S.
Firearm-related injuries and disabilities (for example, from uncompleted suicide attempts) are not included in this metric. This metric does not represent the total public health burden of self-injury from firearms.
The firearm-related suicide rate is calculated by the following formula:
Firearm suicides = Firearm related deaths by suicide/Total Population × 100,000
This metric was calculated by aggregating estimates from smaller geographies to the congressional district level. For more information, please refer to the Congressional District Health Dashboard Technical Document.
Estimates for this metric are from the Multiple Cause of Death Data from the National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics.
Fowler KA, Dahlberg LL, Haileyesus T, Annest JL. Firearm injuries in the United States. Preventive Medicine. 2015/10/01/ 2015;79:5-14. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.06.002
Goldstick JE, Zeoli A, Mair C, Cunningham RM. U.S. Firearm-Related Mortality: National, State, and Population Trends, 1999–2017. Health Affairs. 2019/10/01 2019;38(10):1646-1652. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2019.00258
Olfson M, Blanco C, Wall M, et al. National Trends in Suicide Attempts Among Adults in the United States. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(11):1095-1103. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.2582
Chang SS, Stuckler D, Yip P, Gunnell D. Impact of 2008 global economic crisis on suicide: time trend study in 54 countries. BMJ. Sep 17 2013;347:f5239. doi:10.1136/bmj.f5239
Czeisler M, Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic - United States, June 24-30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. Aug 14 2020;69(32):1049-1057. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1
Office of Justice Programs BoJS. The Nation’s Two Measures of Homicide. 2014.https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/ntmh.pdf
Sondik EJ. Data on Gun Violence: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It? Springer International Publishing; 2021:15-24.
Last updated: January 24, 2023