Gun Violence Is Bringing Down U.S. Life Expectancy

The Atlantic
Gun Violence Is Bringing Down U.S. Life Expectancy
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Gun Violence Is Bringing Down U.S. Life Expectancy

Less than a month after the Newtown shootings, a new report confirms an unsettling truth that already seemed statistically likely: On average, Americans are dying younger because of guns. Americans are also dying younger because of obesity and because of alcohol and because of drugs and because of AIDS, too. The rate of deaths caused by these factors is higher in America than in other developed countries, but the statistics about gun violence stand out because many gun rights organizations have denied any major public health consequences as a result of guns. "One behavior that probably explains the excess lethality of violence and unintentional injuries in the United States is the widespread possession of firearms and the common practice of storing them (often unlocked) at home," reads the report. "The statistics are dramatic."

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Indeed, they are. At six per 100, the rate of violent deaths is higher in the U.S. than in any other country in the world, and the majority of those deaths involve firearms. The rest of the world is pretty far behind, too. We have three times as many violent deaths than the next most violent country, Finland. Researchers linked this trend with the U.S. having the lowest life expectancy -- 75.6 years for men and 80.7 years for women -- out of the 17 wealthy countries surveyed in the report.

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The statistics couldn't have come at a more opportune time, as Vice President Joe Biden holds the first meetings for his task force on gun violence at the White House. And once again, the statistics are dramatic. "The size of the health disadvantage was pretty stunning," explained Dr. Steven H. Woolf, the lead researcher on the study. "The fact that our risk of death from homicide is seven times higher and from shootings 20 times higher is pretty dramatic."

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