Guns, alcohol, and intimate partner violence: the epidemiology of female suicide in New Mexico.

L. Olson, F. Huyler, A. W. Lynch, L. Fullerton, D. Werenko, D. Sklar, R. Zumwalt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Suicide is among the leading causes of death in the United States, and in women the second leading cause of injury death overall. Previous studies have suggested links between intimate partner violence and suicide in women. We examined female suicide deaths to identify and describe associated risk factors. We reviewed all reports from the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator for female suicide deaths occurring in New Mexico from 1990 to 1994. Information abstracted included demographics, mechanism of death, presence of alcohol/drugs, clinical depression, intimate partner violence, health problems, and other variables. Annual rates were calculated based on the 1990 census. The New Mexico female suicide death rate was 8.2/100,000 persons per year (n = 313), nearly twice the U.S. rate of 4.5/100,000. Non-Hispanic whites were overrepresented compared to Hispanics and American Indians. Decedents ranged in age from 14 to 93 years (median = 43 years). Firearms accounted for 45.7% of the suicide deaths, followed by ingested poisons (29.1%), hanging (10.5%), other (7.7%), and inhaled poisons (7.0%). Intimate partner violence was documented in 5.1% of female suicide deaths; in an additional 22.1% of cases, a male intimate partner fought with or separated from the decedent immediately preceding the suicide. Nearly two-thirds (65.5%) of the decedents had alcohol or drugs present in their blood at autopsy. Among decedents who had alcohol present (34.5%), blood alcohol levels were far higher among American Indians compared to Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites (p = .01). Interpersonal conflict was documented in over 25% of cases, indicating that studies of the mortality of intimate partner violence should include victims of both suicide and homicide deaths to fully characterize the mortality patterns of intimate partner violence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-126
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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