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Violent Deaths in the United States

Posted Oct 02 2008 6:16pm
A report in a recent issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report summarizes data from CDC's National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) concerning violent deaths from 16 U.S. states for 2005. Results are reported by sex, age group, race/ethnicity, marital status, location of injury, method of injury, circumstances of injury, and other selected characteristics. NVDRS collects data regarding violent deaths obtained from death certificates, coroner/medical examiner reports, and law enforcement reports. A total of 15,495 fatal incidents involving 15,962 violent deaths occurred in the 16 NVDRS states included in the report.

The majority (56.1%) of deaths were suicides, followed by homicides and deaths involving legal interventions (29.6%), violent deaths of undetermined intent (13.3%), and unintentional firearm deaths (0.7%). Fatal injury rates varied by sex, race/ethnicity, age group, and method of injury. Rates were substantially higher for males than for females and for American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) and blacks than for whites and Hispanics. Rates were highest for persons aged 20-24 years.

For method of injury, the three highest rates were reported for firearms, poisonings, and hanging/strangulation/suffocation. Suicides occurred at higher rates among males, AI/ANs, whites, and older persons and most often involved the use of firearms in the home. Suicides were precipitated primarily by mental illness, intimate partner or physical health problems, or a crisis during the previous 2 weeks. Homicides occurred at higher rates among males and young adult blacks and most often involved the use of firearms in the home or on a street/highway. Homicides were precipitated primarily by an argument over something other than money or property or in conjunction with another crime.

The results indicate that deaths resulting from self-inflicted or interpersonal violence occur to a varying extent among males and females of every age group and racial/ethnic population. Key factors affecting rates of violent fatal injuries include sex, age group, method of injury, location of injury, and precipitating circumstances (e.g., mental health and substance abuse). The data provided in the report is preliminary in nature given the sampling procedures used and states participating in the survey.

Accurate, timely, and comprehensive surveillance data are necessary for the occurrence of violent deaths in the United States to be understood better and ultimately prevented. NVDRS data can be used to track the occurrence of violence-related fatal injuries and assist public health authorities in the development, implementation, and evaluation of programs and policies to reduce and prevent violent deaths and injuries at the national, state, and local levels. The continued development and expansion of NVDRS is essential to CDC's efforts to reduce the personal, familial, and societal costs of violence. Further efforts are needed to increase the number of states using NVDRS, with an ultimate goal of full national representation.

Click here for the abstract.

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