Last year, the U.S. gun death rate hit its highest level in nearly three decades, and the rate among women has risen faster than that of men, according to a study released Tuesday.
The rise in women — most dramatically, among black women — plays a tragic and under-recognized role in a tally that massively skews men, the researchers said.
“Women can get lost in the discussion because so many of the deaths are men,” said one of the authors, Dr. Eric Fleegler of Harvard Medical School.
Among black women, the rate of gun-related homicides has more than tripled since 2010 and the rate of gun-related suicides has more than doubled since 2015, Fleegler and co-authors wrote in the paper. published by Open JAMA Network.
The research is one of the most comprehensive analyzes of U.S. gun deaths in years, said David Hemenway, director of Harvard University’s Center for Injury Control Research.
In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on gun deaths in the United States last year, counting more than 47,000, the most in at least 40 years.
The US population is growing, but researchers say the rate of gun deaths has also worsened. Rates of firearm-related homicides and suicides in the United States both rose 8% last year, each reaching levels not seen since the early 1990s.
In the new study, the researchers looked at trends in gun deaths since 1990. They found that gun deaths began to rise steadily in 2005, but the rise has accelerated recently, with a jump by 20% from 2019 to 2021.
Why have gun deaths increased so dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s “a simple question with probably a complicated answer that no one really knows the answer to,” said Fleegler, an emergency physician at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Factors could include disruption to people’s work and personal lives, increased gun sales, stress and mental health issues, experts said.
Researchers have counted more than 1.1 million gun deaths in those 32 years, roughly the same number of US deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the past three years.
About 14% of those killed by firearms were women, but the increase in the rate among them is more pronounced. There were about 7 gun deaths per 100,000 women last year, up from about 4 per 100,000 in 2010, an increase of 71%. The comparable increase for men was 45%, with the rate rising to around 26 per 100,000 from around 18 per 100,000 in 2010.
Among black women, the rate of firearm suicide has risen from around 1.5 per 100,000 in 2015 to around 3 per 100,000 last year. Last year, their homicide death rate was over 18 per 100,000, compared to about 4 per 100,000 for Hispanic women and 2 per 100,000 for white women.
The highest gun death rates continue to be among young black men, at 142 per 100,000 for those in their early 20s. The highest gun suicide death rates were for white males in the early 1980s, at 45 per 100,000, the researchers said.
In a commentary accompanying the study, three University of Michigan researchers said the paper confirms racial and gender differences in gun deaths in the United States and that homicide deaths are concentrated in cities. and that suicides are more common in rural areas.
“Gun violence is a growing problem in the United States” and will take a series of efforts to control it, they wrote.
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