12801664_907373619375337_9197281522660029129_nWhile firearm homicides dominate the media coverage of gun violence in the U.S., the number of annual firearm suicides is almost twice as high. According to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health, states with higher levels of firearm ownership have higher rates of firearm-related suicides.

Using data on firearm ownership and gender-specific suicide from 1981 to 2013 for all 50 states, researchers at Boston University School of Public Health’s Department of Community Health Sciences investigated the relationship between the firearm ownership level in a state for a given year and the adjusted overall and firearm suicide rate in that state and year.

Results showed a strong relationship between higher levels of firearm ownership in a state and higher firearm-related suicide rates for both males and females. Among males, there was also a significant association between higher firearm ownership and higher overall suicide rates by any means. These findings imply that policies that reduce firearm ownership could likely reduce firearm-related suicides for men and women, as well as overall suicide rates for men.

“Approximately 40,000 people die as a result of suicide each year in the United States, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the nation and costing approximately $44 billion per year,” the authors explain. “The public health implication of these findings is that reductions in the prevalence of firearms may be an effective strategy for reducing firearm-related suicides for both genders, and for reducing overall suicide rates in men.”

Visit APHA’s gun violence page to learn more about the public health consequences of gun violence and strategies to prevent this leading cause of premature death in the U.S.

For more about this study and the latest public health research, visit the American Journal of Public Health online.