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Background: Violent death is a serious problem in the US. Previous research showing US rates of violent death compared with other high-income countries used data that are more than a decade old.

Methods: We examined 2010 mortality data obtained from the WHO for populous, high-income countries (n=23). Death rates per 100,000 population were calculated for each country and for the aggregation of all non-US countries overall and by age and sex. Tests of significance were performed using Poisson and negative binomial regressions. Results: US homicide rates were 7.0 times higher than other high-income countries, driven by a gun homicide rate that was 25.2 times higher. For 15-24 year olds, the gun homicide rate in the US was 49.0 times higher. Firearm-related suicide rates were 8.0 times higher in the US but our overall suicide rates were average. Unintentional firearm deaths were 6.2 times higher in the US. The overall firearm death rate in the US from all causes was 10.0 times higher. Ninety percent of women, 91% of children aged 0-14, 92% of youth aged 15-24, and 82% of all people killed by firearms were from the US.

Conclusion: The US has an enormous firearm problem compared to other high-income countries with much higher rates of homicide and firearm-related suicide. Compared to 2003 estimates, the US firearm death rate remains unchanged while firearm death rates in other countries fell. Thus, the already high relative rates of firearm homicide, firearm suicide and unintentional firearm death in the US compared to the other high-income countries rose between 2003 and 2010.

Violent death is a serious public health problem in the United States. Among 15-24 year olds, homicide is the second leading cause of death and suicide is the third leading cause; for 25-34 year olds, suicide is the second leading cause and homicide the third leading cause of fatality, following unintentional injuries for both groups.

The United States is known to have higher levels of violent death, particularly homicide, compared to other developed nations. While the US does not appear to have higher rates of non-lethal crime, our rates of lethal violence and especially gun violence are much higher than other high-income countries. There are many more guns and less strong gun laws in the US than in other developed nations.

Almost two decades ago, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used data from the early 1990s to compare the United States to other high-income countries in terms of violent death (i.e., suicide, homicide, firearm accidents) for children aged 5-14 years. In a previous article, we updated and expanded that comparison to examine all age groups and both sexes using 2003 data. These 2003 data are now more than a dozen years old. In this paper, we again update the data plus we provide country level data for each high-income nation and contrast the US levels of lethal violence for whites, who traditionally have lower homicide rates than non-whites in the US, with all citizens (i.e., whites and non-whites) of the other high-income nations.


From The American Journal of Medicine Volume 129, Issue 3, March 2016, Pages 266-273


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