Social and racial correlates of Russian roulette

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2008 Aug;38(4):436-41. doi: 10.1521/suli.2008.38.4.436.


The epidemiology of a neglected form of suicidal behavior, Russian roulette, is addressed. Also tested is an explanation of racial differences based on the opportunity theory of deviant behavior related to the availability of revolvers, necessary weapons with which to play Russian roulette. Data refer to 15 cases of Russian roulette found through a search of the medical examiner's suicide files (N = 1,412) and 75 matched controls who suicided by a gunshot to the head. The results support an opportunity perspective: 80% of the Russian roulette victims were African American compared to 30.7% of the controls. Further, among the controls, Blacks were three times more likely than Whites to use revolvers in suicides, a pattern indicating Blacks' greater access to revolvers. Russian roulette victims were entirely male, significantly younger, and less apt to be married than the control group.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Black or African American / psychology
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Control Groups
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Florida / epidemiology
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sex Factors
  • Suicide / ethnology
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • White People / psychology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / epidemiology*