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Murder, Suicide Claim More Years of Life Among U.S. Minorities Than Whites
  • Posted February 8, 2024

Murder, Suicide Claim More Years of Life Among U.S. Minorities Than Whites

People of color in the United States lose more potential years of life to murder and suicide than whites, a new study concludes.

On average, Hispanic, Asian and Black homicide victims lose an average 12, eight and four more years of expected lifespan, respectively, than white victims, researchers report Feb. 7 in the journal PLOS One.

Suicide costs Hispanic, Asian, Black and American Indian victims about 14, 13, 6 and 7 more potential years of life on average than whites.

"Violent deaths are disproportionate across racial and ethnic groups,"concluded the research team led by Gregory Zimmerman, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston.

"Homicide and suicide exact a high societal cost, and the burden of that cost is disproportionately high among persons of color,"the researchers wrote.

For their study, the investigators analyzed data from the National Violent Death Reporting System. The data included nearly 99,000 homicide victims and more than 230,000 suicide victims who died between 2003 and 2019.

In line with prior research, they discovered that people of color tend to die by violence at significantly younger ages than white victims.

They then examined a number of individual factors that, together, are known to increase a person's individual risk of dying by violence.

These included education, employment, marital status, substance abuse, mental health problems, access to firearms, family strife, illness, job problems and lack of money.

When these differences were taken into account, the gap in potential years of life lost to murder and suicide between Black and white victims dropped by 66%, researchers said.

Similarly, the gaps between Hispanic and white murder victims dropped by 26% and suicide victims by 36% when these factors were taken into account. The gap between Asian and white murder victims and suicide victims declined by 17% and 22%.

Most striking, the gap between American Indian and white suicide victims completely vanished when inequities were fully addressed, researchers said.

"As such, racial and ethnic differences in the causes of violence -- and potential years of life lost to violence -- are amenable to change,"the researchers wrote.

For example, communities of color would benefit from resources to boost educational opportunities, improve access to child care and address family violence, researchers said.

Steps also can be taken to address racial and ethnic disparities that make people of color less likely to seek out mental health services, the researchers added.

More information

KFF has more on firearms deaths by race and ethnicity.

SOURCE: PLOS One, news release, Feb. 7, 2024

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