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Household Firearm Ownership and Suicide Rates in the United States

Miller, Matthew; Azrael, Deborah; Hemenway, David

Original Articles

Background. In the United States, more people kill themselves with firearms than with all other methods combined. A central question regarding the relation between firearms and suicide is whether the ready availability of firearms increases the suicide rate, rather than merely increasing the proportion of suicides from guns.

Methods. We used publicly available data for the nine regions and 50 states in the United States over a 10-year period (1988–1997) to examine the association between levels of household firearm ownership and rates of suicide, firearm suicide, and non-firearm suicide by age groups and gender.

Results. In both regional and state-level analyses, for the U.S. population as a whole, for both males and females, and for virtually every age group, a robust association exists between levels of household firearm ownership and suicide rates.

Conclusions. Where firearm ownership levels are higher, a disproportionately large number of people die from suicide.

From the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA.

Address correspondence to: Matthew Miller, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115;

This research was supported in part by grants from the Joyce Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Open Society Institute.

Submitted 18 September 2001; final version accepted 14 May 2002.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.