Comparing Rates of Mental Illness and Gun Violence in U.S., Australia, and U.K.

In 2021, 47,286 Americans Died From Gun Violence - The Highest Ever...

Author: Florida Atlantic University
Published: 2023/12/11
Publication Type: Case Study - Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Comparison between Australia and the U.K. indicates mental illness is not a major contributor to increasing trends in death from gun violence in the U.S. The U.S. is experiencing more than 10 times higher death rates from gun violence than Australia and more than 40 times higher death rates than the U.K. The comparisons between Australia and the U.K. indicate that mental illness is not a major contributor to the increasing trends in death from gun violence in the U.S. The researchers opine that attempts at combatting the epidemic of U.S. homicides and suicides from gun violence without addressing guns is tantamount to attempts at combatting the epidemic of deaths from lung cancer from smoking without addressing cigarettes.

Gun Violence

Gun-related violence is violence committed with the use of a firearm. Gun-related violence may or may not be considered criminal. Criminal violence includes homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, and suicide, or attempted suicide, depending on jurisdiction. Non-criminal violence includes accidental or unintentional injury and death. The United States has the 11th highest rate of gun violence in the world and a gun homicide rate which is 25 times higher than the average respective rates of other high income nations. The U.S. also has a total rate of firearms death 50-100 times greater than many similarly wealthy nations with strict gun control laws, such as Japan, the U.K., and South Korea. Gun violence is a daily scourge that threatens our most fundamental right: the right to life. Nearly all studies have found a correlation between gun ownership and gun-related homicide and suicide rates.

Main Digest

"Mental Illness and Gun Violence in the United States, Australia and United Kingdom: Clinical and Public Health Challenges" - The American Journal of Medicine.

Considerable attention has focused on mental illness as a major contributor to homicides in the United States. Serious mental illness affects more than 14 million Americans ages 18 and older and nearly 58 million people reported having a mental illness.

Researchers find similar mental illness rates in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, but notably higher gun violence in the U.S.

In 2021, 47,286 Americans died from gun violence - the highest ever - of which 46 percent were homicides and 54 percent were suicides involving firearms.

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Medicine and collaborators compared deaths from mental illness and gun violence in the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom and their clinical and public health challenges. Their findings were published online ahead of print in The American Journal of Medicine.

Results show that:

Findings also reveal that in 2019, self-reports of mental illness were 15.7 percent in the U.S., 17.6 percent in Australia and 13.8 percent in the U.K.

"The U.S. is experiencing more than 10 times higher death rates from gun violence than Australia and more than 40 times higher death rates than the U.K.," said Charles H. Hennekens, M.D., Dr.PH., co-author, First Sir Richard Doll Professor of Medicine and senior academic advisor in the FAU Schmidt College of Medicine.

"The comparisons between Australia and the U.K. indicate that mental illness is not a major contributor to the increasing trends in death from gun violence in the U.S."

Continued below image.
Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine building - Image Credit: Alex Dolce, Florida Atlantic University.
Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine building - Image Credit: Alex Dolce, Florida Atlantic University.
Continued...

The researchers suggest that the high rates of gun ownership and access to firearms and not mental illness are plausible but unproven explanations. Furthermore, they opine that if mental illness, which is similar in the three countries, played a major role in gun homicides, one would expect gun homicide rates to be comparably similar. In fact, gun homicide rates are vastly different between the U.S., Australia and the U.K.

"People with serious mental illness have a markedly reduced life expectancy of 15 to 20 percent, dying in their late 50s compared with the late 70s for the general population. They also commit suicide at about 10 times the rate of their about 1 percent prevalence in the general population and many of these suicides are due to gun violence," said Stuart Goldman, M.D., co-author, professor of psychiatry and founding program director emeritus, psychiatry residency, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, FAU Schmidt College of Medicine.

"Individuals with serious mental illness also have higher risks of committing lethal violence, however, these absolute risks are very low and result in modest contributions to societal homicides. Active, untreated symptoms appear to be the strongest risk factor as well as symptoms of substance misuse or inadequate or delayed."

The researchers also compared the rates of gun-related deaths in the U.S. by state, revealing large differences:

Massachusetts has the lowest rates of gun ownership and deaths from gun violence in the nation. In contrast, the highest rates of gun-related deaths are:

Moreover, the difference in the rate of gun-related deaths between U.S. states is more than six times higher than the difference in mental illness.

The researchers opine that attempts at combatting the epidemic of U.S. homicides and suicides from gun violence without addressing guns is tantamount to attempts at combatting the epidemic of deaths from lung cancer from smoking without addressing cigarettes.

About the Research Team

Study co-authors are Michelle Berglass, a pre-med student at the University of Florida; Dennis G. Maki, M.D., Ovid O. Myer Professor of Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health; and Sarah K. Wood, M.D., director, Harvard Macy Institute, Harvard Medical School, and former vice dean, professor and chair, Women's and Children's Health, FAU Schmidt College of Medicine.

Maki and Hennekens both trained at Harvard after serving together for two years as lieutenant commanders in the U.S. Public Health Service as epidemic intelligence service (EIS) officers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They served under Alexander D. Langmuir, M.D., who created the EIS and epidemiology program at the CDC, and Donald A. Henderson, M.D., chief of the Virus Disease Surveillance Program at the CDC.

Resources Providing Contextual Information

Attribution/Source(s):

This peer reviewed publication pertaining to our Psychological Disorders section was selected for circulation by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Comparing Rates of Mental Illness and Gun Violence in U.S., Australia, and U.K." was originally written by Florida Atlantic University, and submitted for publishing on 2023/12/11. Should you require further information or clarification, Florida Atlantic University can be contacted at the fau.edu website. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.

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