Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15 to 24. A new study to be published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicineindicates that the single largest predictor of youth suicide is gun ownership.

The report covers a state-by-state analysis of gun ownership in 2004 (the last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studied gun ownership) and the subsequent suicide rate for youth aged 10 to 19 over the following decade from 2005 to 2015. For each 10 percentage point increase in state gun ownership, the youth suicide rate increased 26.9%. And a state’s rate of gun ownership accounted for 55% of the differences in youth suicide seen from one state to another.

The only other factors that were associated with overall youth suicide rates were the suicide attempt rate and the percentage of youth who were Native American. Including those factors in the model explained 92% of the variation in youth suicide rates between states.

There are some states that are outliers. Both Alabama and Mississippi have gun ownership rates of over 50%, but also have relatively low youth suicide rates. The study authors suggest that culture may be a factor in these states, as both states have high African-American populations, and African-Americans are less likely than whites to die by suicide and are also far less likely to own guns.

In addition, data from the National Violent Injury Statistic System show that 82% of firearm-related youth suicides involved a firearm owned by a household member. The study authors say the reason guns are so strongly associated with suicide is that they are quick and immediately lethal. Firearms are 2.6 times more lethal than other means of suicide.

Graphic courtesy MesserWoland via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license.