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Health Problems and Male Firearm Suicide


  • The authors are grateful for the helpful comments of Matthew Miller and Catherine Barber.

Address correspondence to Katherine Hempstead, Center for State Health Policy, Rutgers University, 112 Patterson St., 5th Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1913; E-mail:


Drawing on constructs of masculinity as it relates to both gun ownership and men's health, we use a rich data set, the New Jersey Violent Death Reporting System as well as hospital discharge data, to analyze 3,413 completed male suicides between the years of 2003 and 2009. We test the hypotheses that the use of firearms is more common when physical health problems are cited as suicide circumstances, and that suicide decedents who use firearms have poorer physical health than those who used other methods. Results show that firearms are disproportionately used in male suicides when physical health is listed as a circumstance. Additionally, among suicide decedents with a hospitalization during the 3 years prior to death, those who used firearms were in poorer health than those who used other methods. These findings have implications for prevention efforts, because restricting access to lethal means is an important aspect of suicide prevention.