News And Politics

CDC survey of violent deaths tags more than 60 percent as suicides

Sept. 13, 2012, 10:41 a.m.

In 2009, 0.5 percent of violent deaths in 16 states were accidental deaths-by-firearm. (Ken/Flickr Creative Commons)


Around 50,000 people die because of violence every year, say federal health officials, and a new report pins down what's behind some of those deaths.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) logged more than 16,000 deaths in 16 participating states in 2009. California wasn't one of those states, but researchers suggest that examining this data can help them understand violence-related death trends on a national level.

What they found is this:

– Most violent deaths (more than 60 percent) in these states were suicides.

– The second-most common cause was homicide and deaths carried out by police officers and others who have the legal authority to use deadly force; those comprised about 25 percent of violent deaths that year.

– In around 14 percent of violent deaths, officials weren't able to determine whether it had been intentional or not. Keep in mind that a death doesn't have to be intentional for it to be violent.

– 0.5 percent were accidental deaths-by-firearm.

The CDC noted that suicides happened at higher rates among mid-life, white and Native American men, and were usually carried out by firearm. Those who committed suicide had usually experienced mental, physical or relationship problems in the two weeks prior to their death.

For homicides, the agency said rates were highest among young black men. Most murders were carried out with a firearm, and these particular acts of violence usually happened along with other crimes, or were preceded by arguments or conflicts between the killer and the victim.

While California wasn't included in the CDC's report, Los Angeles County's Department of Public Health does have statistics on deaths in the county from the same year, 2009. Here's how South L.A.'s data stacks up:

– Homicides occurred in South L.A. in 2009 at a rate about 17 for every 100,000 people. That's by far the highest in the county, but it's still down nearly 16 percent from 2000, when it had the highest homicide rate in the county by an even wider margin.

Firearm deaths happened on the southside at a rate of about 16 for every 100,000 people, easily the highest in the county. As with homicides, that rate is still way lower than it was in 2000, when firearm deaths were happening at at a rate of about 30 for every 100,000 folks.

– The southside's unintentional death rate – about 26 for every 100,000 people – was second-highest in the county, trailing only the Antelope Valley region.

Poisoning rates in South L.A. were pretty much the same as the county average that year – around eight for every 100,000 people.

To conclude, a few more interesting findings from the report. Keep in mind that this is a survey of only 16 states:

– There were 120 deaths due to legal intervention, which includes officer-involved shootings.

– 49 people died on farms, and 17 people died on a school campus or school bus.

– Nearly 2,400 victims' blood alcohol content was over the legal limit; just over 780 victims tested positive for coke.

– More people killed themselves or were killed in July 2009 than any other month that year – 895 suicides and 389 homicides.

– Nearly 3,000 suicide victims had been diagnosed with depression.

– More than 400 victims were married to or involved with the person who killed them.

– Three people died due to hate crime violence; 40 people died in brawls; more than 100 died because of, as the CDC puts it, "lover's triangles."

You can read the full report here.

Photo by Ken via Flickr Creative Commons.

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