Living in home with gun linked with higher risk of dying by suicide

People who live in homes with a gun are two to five times more likely to die by suicide than those who live in homes without guns, said Matthew Miller of Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in an August 30, 2013 interview on NPR’s Science Friday that featured Miller and two other experts.

“What differentiates people who live in homes with guns from people who live in homes without guns is the likelihood that they’re going to die [during a suicide attempt], because when, in an impulse, they reach for a gun, they’re much, much more likely to die than when they reach for anything else,” said Miller, associate professor of health policy and management at HSPH and co-director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. “Nine out of ten times that someone uses a gun, they end up dying.”

In the interview, Miller discussed his August 23, 2013 paper in the American Journal of Epidemiology, in which he and HSPH colleagues reported that firearm ownership rates—independent of underlying rates of suicidal behavior—largely determine variations in suicide mortality across the 50 states. “We found that the strongest predictor of how likely somebody is to die by suicide in a given state depends on whether they live in a home with a firearm,” Miller said.

Listen to the Science Friday story

Read the American Journal of Epidemiology abstract

Learn more

Guns and suicide: Strong evidence for controls (Boston Globe editorial)

Guns & Suicide: The Hidden Toll (Harvard Public Health)

Preventing suicides by reducing access to guns (HSPH news)