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Could reducing access to guns prevent suicide?

Research awardData Science

Funding period 2018 - 2019

InstitutionQueen's University Belfast

LocationUnited Kingdom

Dr Aideen Maguire is looking at the mental health and suicide risk of people in the UK who have access to guns.

The project

Over 6,000 people died by suicide last year in the UK – with rates rising by nearly 4% since 2014. But how can we help protect more people from taking their own lives?

One proven method is restricting access to means - like controlling toxic substances and limiting the availability of weapons - which enable someone to complete suicide.  

Dr Aideen Maguire and her team at Queen’s University Belfast are finding out if having access to a gun increases suicide risk. This has been proven in the US, but in the UK – where laws and culture differ considerably – no research has ever been done to understand if this could be the same.

Aideen’s innovative study will find out. And has the potential to support vital new ways to prevent the tragedy of suicide.

The process

Aideen and her team will analyse data from Northern Ireland, where the proportion of gun owners and suicide rates are the highest in the UK, to explore the mental health and mortality risk of individuals with access to a firearm.    

All data will be anonymous and will be analysed using sophisticated data modelling techniques, taking into account the fact that suicide by firearms is a relatively rare event.

The potential

This population-wide study will provide researchers, healthcare professionals and the police service with vital new insights into the mental health and suicide risk of individuals who have access to firearms.

The results of Aideen’s study could ultimately help the NHS and the police service to protect more people at risk, and aid in the development of prevention strategies across the UK.

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