The rate of gun suicides in the United States has reached its highest level since authorities began tracking it more than 50 years ago, according to a report. new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rate increased by more than 10% in 2022 compared to 2019, and in some racial and ethnic groups the increase was significantly greater, particularly among Native Americans. In total, approximately 27,000 of the 50,000 suicides were committed by firearm in 2022.
Federal researchers involved in the analysis suggested that the coronavirus pandemic may have exacerbated many known risk factors for suicide in general, including social isolation, strained relationships, and drug and alcohol disorders. . At the same time, outside experts noted, the increase in rates also correlates with another trend observed during the acute phase of the pandemic: increased gun sales.
“When there are more guns, there are more gun suicides,” said Michael Anestis, executive director of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center.
The suicide rate, regardless of method, has increased by a third over the past two decades. according to federal data. More than half of those cases now involve guns, the report says, a figure that translates to approximately one every 20 minutes.
On the other hand, more than half of all gun deaths in the United States are suicides.
To examine recent trends, federal researchers from the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control compiled and analyzed demographic and mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System and the Census Bureau. (The 2022 statistics, the most recent data available, are still considered preliminary.)
They found that the gun suicide rate in 2022 (8.1 per 100,000) was the highest level since at least 1968, the first year recorded in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Suicide rates have increased across all racial and ethnic groups since 2019, but the degree of change differed drastically. American Indians and Alaska Natives, for example, experienced the largest increase: a 66% increase in gun suicide rates between 2019 and 2022 (from 6.4 to 10.6 per 100,000). The rate among blacks increased by 42 percent (to 5.3 from 3.8), and among Hispanics and Latinos by 28 percent (to 3.3 from 2.5). Asian and Pacific Islanders saw gun suicide rates increase by about 10% (from 1.7 to 1.9).
White people experienced the smallest increase – a 9% increase since 2019 – but maintained the highest overall rate of gun suicides (11.1 per 100,000 in 2022).
Sarah Burd-Sharps, senior director of research at Everytown for gun safety, a nonprofit group that aims to prevent gun violence, said the unprecedented increase in the rate among American Indian and Alaska Native communities could be caused by disparities in access to mental health care . She said high levels of job loss and financial hardship in Black and Latino communities during the pandemic could have contributed to the increase in these groups.
Dr. Anestis of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center said he was “unfortunately not surprised” because the demographic groups driving the increase in gun sales did not fit the stereotype of ” older, white, male gun owners.” Research has shown that about half of first-time buyers during the pandemic were women and a growing proportion were Black and Hispanic.
Research shows that gun owners are no more likely than others to have suicidal thoughts, but surveys have shown that people who planned to buy Guns during the pandemic were more likely to have recently thought about suicide than people with no plans to purchase guns.
“As guns enter new types of communities and homes where people have tended to think about suicide, they suddenly have access to the deadliest method,” Dr. Anestis said.
CDC researchers have called for greater efforts to reduces these suicides by addressing underlying inequalities. Some states are working to develop safe options for gun storage. far from a person’s home during times of distress.
Dr. Anestis plans a project that could train barbers, religious leaders, bartenders and even divorce lawyers on how to promote these options to discouraged people, “a bit like knowing who will hold your car keys when you will have too many. “Plenty to drink,” he said.
“The goal is not to encroach on their autonomy as owners,” he said. “It’s about making sure that, in their worst moment, it’s not within reach.”
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Go here for resources outside the United States.