Youth suicides are occurring mostly in states with high gun ownership

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Researchers found that the youth suicide rate is rising

While the debate over gun control continues to rage on, a new study conducted by researchers from Boston University’s School of Public Health attacks the situation from yet another angle: youth suicide.

According to the researchers, three young people between the ages of 10 and 19 use a gun to commit suicide every day, and those numbers become even more prevalent in states where gun ownership is more common.  

“The availability of firearms is contributing to an increase in the actual number of suicides, not just leading youth to substitute other means of suicide for guns,” said lead researcher Anita Knopov.

Localizing the problem

The researchers were looking to break down suicide rates by state and see the way gun ownership in the home affects the likelihood of young people committing suicide.

The team analyzed data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to determine how many households per state had guns. They also consulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to track the number of youth suicides from 2005 through 2015 and the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) by state to account for any potential variables, including education, poverty, depression, substance abuse associated with suicide, suicide planning, or suicide attempts.

The researchers found that states that had higher gun ownership were also associated with higher gun-related youth suicides; however, they also found that higher gun ownership is contributing to higher youth suicides overall.

For the 10 states with the lowest youth suicide rates, gun ownership in the home was at around 20 percent, whereas in the 10 states with the highest youth suicide rates, gun ownership in the home was over 52 percent.

“This study demonstrates that the strongest single predictor of a state’s youth suicide rate is the prevalence of household gun ownership in the state,” said researcher Michael Siegel. “The level of gun ownership is a much better predictor of youth suicide than even knowing the exact number of youth who will attempt suicide in a given year.”

Other factors

While guns are just one factor contributing to youth suicides, recent research has found that there is certainly more to it. A recent study found that suicide rates among young women are at an all-time high, which could be because of societal pressures to always feel perfect.

Researchers found that between the demands of performing well in school and portraying life perfectly on social media, comparison to others often leaves young women feeling inadequate, which can lead to suicide.

Additionally, a study from late last year found that lack of sleep can contribute to a higher chance of teens engaging in risky behaviors, including substance abuse, drinking and driving, and suicide.

“We found the odds of unsafe behavior by high school students increased significantly with fewer hours of sleep,” said lead author Matthew Weaver, PhD. “Personal risk-taking behaviors are common precursors to accidents and suicides, which are the leading causes of death among teens and have important implications for the health and safety of high school students nationally.”

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