Background: Firearm-related injury is an important and preventable cause of death and disability. We describe the burden, baseline characteristics and regional rates of firearm-related injury and death in Ontario.
Methods: We conducted a population-based cross-sectional study using linked data from health administrative data sets held at ICES. We identified residents of Ontario of all ages who were injured or died as a result of a firearm discharge between Apr. 1, 2002, and Dec. 31, 2016. We included injuries classified as assault, unintentional, self-harm or undetermined intent secondary to handguns, rifles, shotguns and larger firearms. The primary outcome was the incidence of nonfatal and fatal injuries resulting in an emergency department visit, hospital admission or death. We also describe regional and temporal rates.
Results: We identified 6483 firearm-related injuries (annualized injury rate 3.54 per 100 000 population), of which 2723 (42.3%) were fatal. Assault accounted for 40.2% (1494/3715) of nonfatal injuries and 25.5% (694/2723) of deaths. Young men, predominantly in urban neighbourhoods, within the lowest income quintile were overrepresented in this group. Injuries secondary to self-harm accounted for 68.0% (1366/2009) of injuries and occurred predominantly in older men living in rural Ontario across all income quintiles. The case fatality rate of injuries secondary to self-harm was 91.7%. Self-harm accounted for 1842 deaths (67.6%).
Interpretation: We found that young urban men were most likely to be injured in firearm-related assaults and that more than two-thirds of self-harm-related injuries occurred in older rural-dwelling men, most of whom died from their injuries. This highlights a need for suicide-prevention strategies in rural areas targeted at men aged 45 or older.
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