Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 48, Issue 9, pp 1467–1479 | Cite as

Association of suicide rates, gun ownership, conservatism and individual suicide risk

Original Paper



The purpose of the study was to examine the association of suicide rates, firearm ownership, political conservatism, religious integration at the state level, and individual suicide risk. Social structural and social learning and social integration theories were theoretical frameworks employed. It was hypothesized that higher suicide rates, higher state firearm availability, and state conservatism elevate individual suicide risk.


Data were pooled from the Multiple Cause of Death Files. Multilevel logistic regression models were fitted to all deaths occurring in 2000 through 2004 by suicide.


The state suicide rate significantly elevated individual suicide risk (AOR = 1.042, CI = 1.037, 1.046). Firearm availability at the state level was associated with significantly higher odds of individual suicide (AOR = 1.004, CI = 1.003, 1.006). State political conservatism elevated the odds of individual suicides (AOR = 1.005, CI = 1.003, 1.007), while church membership at the state level reduced individual odds of suicide (AOR = 0.995, CI = 0.993, 0.996). The results held even after controlling for socioeconomic and demographic variables at the individual level.


It was concluded that the observed association between individual suicide odds and national suicide rates, and firearm ownership cannot be discounted. Future research ought to focus on integrating individual level data and contextual variables when testing for the impact of firearm ownership. Support was found for social learning and social integration theories.


Suicides Firearm availability State suicide rate Conservatism Multilevel models 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California, RiversideRiversideUSA

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