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Suicide the leading cause of Ontario gun deaths: CMAJ study


October 19, 2020
By The Canadian Press

A new study indicates that suicide is the leading cause of firearm-related death in Ontario, with older men in rural areas making up the majority of those fatalities.

The study — published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Monday — looked at 6,483 gun-related injuries, including deaths, in the province between 2002 and 2016.

Self-harm accounted for 1,842 of the 2,723 gun deaths in Ontario in that span, or 67.6 per cent.

Assault accounted for 40.2 per cent of non-fatal firearm injuries, and 25.5 per cent of deaths.

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The study found that more than two thirds of self-harm-related injuries occurred in older men living in rural areas, most of whom died from their injuries.

It said that highlights a need for suicide-prevention strategies targeted at men aged 45 and older who live in rural areas.

“Higher rates of firearm ownership in rural regions may contribute to the higher rates of firearm-related injuries secondary to self-harm in rural Ontario,” the study’s authors wrote. “…The presence of a firearm in the home is a recognized risk factor for all types of firearm injuries and has been associated with a five-fold increase in the likelihood of suicide.”

The study also found that young men, predominantly in urban neighbourhoods, and whose households were within the lowest fifth of income, were over-represented in the group of assault cases.

Researchers said that between 2013 and 2017, 16 of Canada’s census metropolitan areas experienced an increased rate of firearm-related violent crime.

The study said that during that same five-year period, there was a 20 per cent increase in the homicide rate in Canada, from 1.45 to 1.8 per 100 000 population, with almost half – 43 per cent – of the increase occurring in Toronto.

In its interpretation of the data, the report said that homicides typically get more media coverage because of the rising rates but suicides are a more pressing issue.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2020.

The Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2020