New Study Discovers Predictor for Youth Suicide

In the past 20 years, suicide rates have increased 30%, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death among children and young adults aged 10 to 24. It is clearly a major problem for American youth.

A team at the Boston University School of Public Health recently conducted a study and released their results last month. That study found one clear predictor of youth suicide: gun ownership. Youth suicide rates are higher in states with high gun ownership rates. Here are some examples:

    • Gun ownership rate: almost 60% of households.
    • Youth suicide rate: 15.2 per 100,000 people.
  • South Dakota.
    • Gun ownership rate: almost 60% of households.
    • Youth suicide rate: 14.9 per 100,000 people.
  • New York.
    • Gun ownership rate: 18.5% of households.
    • Youth suicide rate: 2.7 per 100,000 people.
  • New Jersey.
    • Gun ownership rate: 11.4% of households.
    • Youth suicide rate: 2.6 per 100,000 people.

In the 10 states with the highest youth suicide rates, 53% of households owned guns. In the 10 states with the lowest youth suicide rates, only 20% of households owned guns.

The study team, whose report is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that a state’s rate of gun ownership accounted for 55% of the differences in suicide rates seen from one state to another. For each 10 percentage-point increase in household gun ownership, the youth suicide rate increased by 27%.

Researchers hope that this information will help parents to take extra precautions, such as keeping guns locked in a safe, locked into a gun rack or stored with a trigger lock. Sometimes gun owners are more diligent about keeping their guns secure when their kids are little but ease up when children become teenagers, but that is precisely the age when their risk for both unintentional shootings and for suicide goes up. The researchers noted that an average of three youth die by firearm-related suicide every day. Data from the National Violent Injury Statistic System shows that 82% of firearm-related suicides among youth involved a firearm owned by a household member.

Firearms are 2.6 times more lethal than any other means of suicide. Suffocation, pills or other methods take longer and are more likely to fail to kill.

The message to parents is to keep firearms locked up, no matter what age your child is.

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