Lethality of Suicide Method

Case Fatality Ratio by Method of Self-Harm, United States, 2001


The table below illustrates the significantly higher likelihood of death in a suicide attempt using a firearm versus other methods. The “Percent Fatal” column shows the suicide “case fatality rate”: of those who attempt suicide using a given method, the percent who die in that attempt.

Fatal Nonfatal Total % Fatal
Firearm 16,869 2,980 19,849 85%
Suffocation 6,198 2,761 8,959 69%
Poisoning/overdose 5,191 215,814 221,005 2%
Fall 651 1434 2,085 31%
Cut/pierce 458 62,817 63,275 1%
Other 1,109 35,089 36,198 3%
Unspecified 146 2097 2,243 7%
Total 30,622 322,991 353,613 9%

This table covers all U.S. suicide deaths in 2001 and estimated visits to the emergency department (ED) for nonfatal self-harm (based on a nationally-representative sample of emergency departments). “Case Fatality Ratio” (% fatal) is the proportion of cases recorded in a year that are fatal. The ED estimate overstates ED-treated suicide attempts because non-suicidal self-harm cannot be disaggregated from actual suicide attempts; at the same time,  it underestimates nonfatal suicide attempts since many suicide attempts do not result in  care.

Source: Vyrostek SB, Annest JL, Ryan GW. Surveillance for fatal and nonfatal injuries–United States, 2001. MMWR. 2004:53(SS07);1-57. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5307a1.htm