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Households with riskiest firearm storage practices had less healthcare access, new study finds

Alexandra de Leon | December 7, 2021
3 minutes to read

Firearm owning households are more likely to have healthcare insurance and access to a provider, according to a new study published in December’s issues of Preventive Medicine. The study found access to healthcare and safe storage counseling may have limited reach for households with risky storage.

Prior research has shown that provider-led counseling could have effective firearm-suicide prevention strategies. But little research has been done to examine whether there are barriers to healthcare access for at-risk individuals living in firearm-owning households.

The study set out to assess if there were differences between firearm-owning households compared to non-firearm owning households in healthcare access and utilization that would have implications for provider-led firearm interventions if such interventions were widely implemented.

Using 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data from six states, researchers were able to determine those in firearm-owning households were more likely to be 65 years and older, male, had completed high school, and had an income of more than $75,000.

“Our findings suggest homes with firearms were more likely to have insurance, have at least one personal healthcare provider, and less likely to have financial barriers to receiving care,” says Kimberly Dalve, a trainee at UW Medicine’s Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center (HIPRC) and doctoral student at the University of Washington Department of Epidemiology (UW Epi).

Among those with firearm(s) in the household, individuals with the riskiest storage practices (loaded and unlocked) were more likely to lack a healthcare provider compared to those in homes that practice safer firearm storage practices. 

“Our results show that while most firearm owners could be reached via healthcare, those at highest risk of firearm suicide are potentially the hardest to reach and interventions should be designed with this in mind,” says Dalve.

This study is part of HIPRC’s Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program. The program’s mission is to reduce the impact of firearm injury and death on people’s lives through interdisciplinary research and collaboration with institutional, community, and governmental partners.

Other authors on this study include, Unmesha Roy Paladhi, University of Washington Departments of Epidemiology (UW Epi) and Global Health, Sixtine O. Gurrey, HIPRC and UW Epi, Stephen E. Hawes, UW Epi, and Brianna Mills, Research Scientist at HIPRC and UW Epi.

Support and Resources

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help 24/7. If you or the person you are concerned about are in immediate danger, call or text 911.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Crisis Text Line

1-206-685-SAFE (7233)