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Handgun Ownership Linked to Increased Risk for Suicide

Male and female handgun owners have much higher rates of suicide by firearm

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THURSDAY, June 4, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Handgun ownership is associated with an increased risk for suicide, which is driven by higher rates of suicide by firearms, according to a study published in the June 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

David M. Studdert, Sc.D., from Stanford Law School in California, and colleagues identified handgun acquisition and deaths in a cohort of 26.3 million male and female residents of California, aged 21 years or older. Cohort members were followed for up to 12 years and two months.

The researchers found that 676,425 cohort members acquired one or more handguns and 1,457,981 died. Overall, 17,894 individuals died by suicide, including 6,691 suicides by firearms. The rates of suicide by any method were higher among handgun owners, with adjusted hazard ratios of 3.34 and 7.16, respectively, for male and female handgun owners versus nonowners. Much higher rates of suicide by firearm drove these rates among male and female handgun owners (hazard ratios, 7.82 and 35.15, respectively). The rates of suicide by other methods or all-cause mortality were not higher for handgun owners. Among handgun owners, the risk for suicide by firearm peaked after the first acquisition, although 52 percent of all suicides by firearm occurred more than one year after acquisition.

"Our study bolsters and extends the message from previous research: ready access to firearms, particularly handguns, is a major risk factor for suicide," the authors write.

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