Firearm deaths become leading cause of trauma-related death: study
Firearms are now the leading cause of trauma-related deaths in the U.S., according to a study published on Tuesday, overtaking motor vehicle crashes as the top cause of years of potential life lost.
Researchers at the Westchester Medical Center reached the finding after reviewing data from recent years in National Vital Statistics Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC calculates years of potential life lost by subtracting an individual’s age when they died from the standard year of 80, which is roughly the U.S. life expectancy. The agency then sums the number of years lost across different causes of death.
The study looked at data from 2009–2018. In the first few years that researchers looked at, motor vehicle crashes accounted for more years of potential life lost than firearms. However, in 2017 firearms exceeded motor vehicle crashes and continued to do so through 2018.
In the decade that researchers reviewed, firearms accounted for 12.6 million years of potential life lost. Within the decade, crashes accounted for more potential years lost at 12.9 million years.
As researchers noted, years of potential life lost tends to be higher in trauma-related deaths as the individuals tend to be younger.
In 2018, the majority of the nearly 40,000 firearms deaths — 85.4 percent — occurred among men. Around half of these deaths were due to firearm suicide among white men. Firearm homicide was the highest among Black men, with these deaths accounting for about a fifth of firearm deaths in 2018.
Researchers noted that up to 70 percent of suicides are based on impulsive behavior and suicide attempts usually occur after about three hours of contemplation.
“The availability of firearms makes the impulsive behavior somewhat less reversible, and the effectiveness of firearms makes the attempts often successful,” they wrote.
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