Purpose: Individuals with poor physical and mental health may face elevated risk for suicide, particularly suicide by firearm. Methods: This retrospective cohort study used statewide, longitudinally linked emergency department (ED) patient record and mortality data to examine 12-month incidence of firearm suicide among ED patients presenting with a range of physical health problems. Participants included all residents presenting to a California ED in 2009–2013 with nonfatal visits for somatic diagnoses hypothesized to increase suicide risk, including myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, cerebrovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, cancer, back pain, headache, joint disorder, and injuries. For each patient diagnostic group, we calculated rates of firearm suicide per 100,000 person-years and standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) relative to the demographically matched California population. Results: Firearm suicide rates per 100,000 person-years ranged from 9.6 (among patients presenting with unintentional injury) to 55.1 (patients with cancer diagnoses), with SMRs from 1.48 to 7.45 (all p < 0.05). SMRs for patients with cardiovascular conditions ranged from 2.45 to 5.10. Men and older individuals had higher firearm suicide rates, and there was substantial between-group variability in the proportion of suicide decedents who used a firearm. Conclusions: ED patients presenting with deliberate self-harm injuries, substance use, and cancer were especially at risk for firearm suicide. To avoid missed suicide prevention opportunities, EDs should implement evidence-based suicide interventions as a best practice for their patients.
- Emergency department
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