Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States’ gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. And, even though the United States’ suicide rate is similar to other countries, the nation’s gun-related suicide rate is eight times higher than other high-income countries, researchers said.
The study was published online Feb. 1 in The American Journal of Medicine.
“Overall, our results show that the U.S., which has the most firearms per capita in the world, suffers disproportionately from firearms compared with other high-income countries,” said study author Erin Grinshteyn, an assistant professor at the School of Community Health Science at the University of Nevada-Reno. “These results are consistent with the hypothesis that our firearms are killing us rather than protecting us,” she said in a journal news release.
The review of 2010 World Health Organization data also revealed that despite having a similar rate of nonlethal crimes as those countries, the United States has a much higher rate of deadly violence, mostly due to the higher rate of gun-related murders.
The researchers also found that compared to people in the other high-income nations, Americans are seven times more likely to die from violence and six times more likely to be accidentally killed with a gun.
“More than two-thirds of the homicides in the U.S. are firearm homicides and studies have suggested that the non-gun homicide rate in the U.S. may be high because the gun homicide rate is high,” Grinshteyn said.
“For example, offenders take into account the threat posed by their adversaries. Individuals are more likely to have lethal intent if they anticipate that their adversaries will be armed,” she explained.
Even though it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, the United States accounted for 82 percent of all gun deaths. The United States also accounted for 90 percent of all women killed by guns, the study found. Ninety-one percent of children under 14 who died by gun violence were in the United States. And 92 percent of young people between ages 15 and 24 killed by guns were in the United States, the study found.
Murder is the second leading cause of death among Americans aged 15 to 24, the study found. The research also showed that murder was the third leading cause of death among those aged 25-34. Compared to those in the same age groups in other wealthy countries, Americans aged 15-24 are 49 times more likely to be the victim of a gun-related murder. For those aged 25-34, that number is 32 times more likely, the research revealed.
The researchers also point out that numerous studies suggest that reduced access to guns would lower the suicide rate in the United States.
“Differences in overall suicide rates across cities, states and regions in the United States are best explained not by differences in mental health, suicide ideation, or even suicide attempts, but by availability of firearms,” said study co-author David Hemenway, professor of health policy at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center, all in Boston.
“Many suicides are impulsive, and the urge to die fades away. Firearms are a swift and lethal method of suicide with a high case-fatality rate,” he noted in the news release.