Creating a free account will enable you to subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters, as well as customize your reading experience to show only the categories most relevant to you.
Signing up only take a few minutes, so why not give it a try and see what you've been missing out on.
Gun ownership has long been the cause of controversial debate, particularly in the US. Now, a new study has suggested that countries with higher levels of gun ownership are not safer than those with lower levels.
Researchers from St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the New York University Langone Medical Center analyzed data from 27 developed countries, looking at possible associations between gun ownership rates, mental illness, and the risk of firearm-related death.
Their research was published in The American Journal of Medicine.
According to the researchers, a popular notion - particularly in the US - has been that "guns make a nation safer." However, they note that there has been little evidence either way.
Shootings over the years, the researchers say, have demonstrated that there is a potential relationship between mental illness and easy access to guns, and that aside from the availability of guns, lack of treatment for mental illness may pose a bigger problem.
For the study, the researchers obtained gun ownership data from the Small Arms Survey, while data for firearm-related deaths was obtained from a detailed World Health Organization (WHO) European mortality database, the National Center for Health Statistics, among others.
The safety of a nation was determined by crime rates obtained from the United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends.
Results of the analysis showed that gun ownership rate was a "strong and independent predictor of firearm-related death," according to the researchers.
The US showed the highest level of private gun ownership, at 10.2 per every 100,000 people, and it also showed an extremely high rate of firearm-related deaths.
South Africa showed a high level of private gun ownership, at 9.4 per 100,000 people, and the nation also had a significantly high number of firearm-related deaths.
However, the UK showed a low level of private gun ownership, at 0.25 per every 100,000, as well as an extremely low rate of firearm-related deaths.
The researchers say that there was also a significant correlation between guns per head per country and the rate of deaths associated with firearms.
Japan showed the lowest correlation of guns per head and rate of firearm-related deaths, while the US showed the highest correlation.
The researchers say the only country that differed in this correlation was South Africa, whose firearm-related death rate was several times higher than expected, based on the level of gun ownership.
The study authors comment:
"Although correlation is not the same as causation, it seems conceivable that abundant gun availability facilitates firearm-related deaths.
Conversely, high crime rates may instigate widespread anxiety and fear, thereby motivating people to arm themselves and give rise to increased gun ownership, which, in turn, increases availability. The resulting vicious cycle could, bit by bit, lead to the polarized status that is now the case with the US."
The study results were adjusted to factor in whether mental illness, and not purely access to guns, played a part in triggering criminal activities.
The researchers used "age-standardized disability-adjusted life-year rates" as a result of major depressive disorder for every 100,000 inhabitants, using data obtained from the WHO database. This was used as a main indicator for the mental illness burden for each country studied.
However, the researchers say that no significant correlation was found between the burden of mental illness and crime rates.
The study authors conclude:
"Regardless of exact cause and effect, the current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that countries with higher gun ownership are safer than those with low gun ownership."
Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported that a study revealed 20% of suicidal teens have access to guns at home.
Written by Honor Whiteman
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
Gun Ownership and Firearm-related Deaths published in The American Journal of Medicine, DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.04.012, 20 September 2013.
Visit our Public Health category page for the latest news on this subject.
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
Whiteman, Honor. "'Guns do not make a country safer,' study suggests." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 18 Sep. 2013. Web.
10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266316>
Whiteman, H. (2013, September 18). "'Guns do not make a country safer,' study suggests." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
If you write about specific medications, operations, or procedures please do not name healthcare professionals by name.
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact the our editorial team, please use our feedback form. Please send any medical news or health news press releases to:
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.
This page was printed from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266316.php
Visit www.medicalnewstoday.com for medical news and health news headlines posted throughout the day, every day.
© 2004-2013 All rights reserved. MNT (logo) is the registered trade mark of MediLexicon International Limited.