MONDAY, June 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) — A rising number of young Americans, including children, are taking their own lives using firearms, a new study finds.
Researchers found that between 2008 and 2018, gun suicides showed an “alarming” increase among Americans aged 5 to 24. And while those suicides remain rare among children, the rate among kids under 15 quadrupled during the study period.
It’s well known that youth suicide has been climbing in the United States. Last year, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report documented a 57% increase in suicides among 10- to 24-year-olds between 2007 and 2018.
The new study looked specifically at suicide by firearms, which account for more than half of suicide deaths in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The study found that between 2008 and 2018, those suicides spiked by 50% among 15- to 24-year-olds. In 2018, there were seven such deaths per 100,000 Americans in that age group.
Gun suicides were much less common among children aged 5 to 14. But the relative increase was stark — quadrupling from 0.12 per 100,000 in 2008, to just under 0.5 per 100,000 in 2018.
While those numbers are small, the pattern is “very concerning,” said senior researcher Dr. Sarah Wood of Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine in Boca Raton.
“We wanted to open people’s eyes to the fact that this is happening,” she said.
The reasons for the trends, however, are unclear.
“These are just descriptive data,” Wood said. “They don’t tell us the ‘why.'”
But there are likely multiple reasons — possibly a combination of worsening mental health among young Americans, broader access to guns and other factors, she added.
The findings highlight the fact that guns are a public health issue, according to Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer at the nonprofit National Alliance on Mental Illness in Arlington, Va.
“We know that access to firearms is a risk factor for suicide,” Duckworth said.
There is also a correlation between U.S. states’ gun ownership numbers and suicide rates, he noted. Research shows that suicide rates tend to be highest in states with the most gun owners, and lowest in states with the fewest.