Importance: Both major depression and firearm ownership are associated with an increased risk for death by suicide in the United States, but the extent of overlap among these major risk factors is not well characterized.
Objective: To assess the prevalence of current and planned firearm ownership among individuals with depression.
Design, setting, and participants: Cross-sectional survey study using data pooled from 2 waves of a 50-state nonprobability internet survey conducted between May and July 7, 2021. Internet survey respondents were 18 years of age or older and were sampled from all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.
Main outcomes and measures: Self-reported firearm ownership; depressive symptoms as measured by the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire.
Results: Of 24 770 survey respondents (64.6% women and 35.4% men; 5.0% Asian, 10.8% Black, 7.5% Hispanic, and 74.0% White; mean [SD] age 45.8 [17.5]), 6929 (28.0%) reported moderate or greater depressive symptoms; this group had mean (SD) age of 38.18 (15.19) years, 4587 were female (66.2%), and 406 were Asian (5.9%), 725 were Black (10.5%), 652 were Hispanic (6.8%), and 4902 were White (70.7%). Of those with depression, 31.3% reported firearm ownership (n = 2167), of whom 35.9% (n = 777) reported purchasing a firearm within the past year. In regression models, the presence of moderate or greater depressive symptoms was not significantly associated with firearm ownership (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.07; 95% CI, 0.98-1.17) but was associated with greater likelihood of a first-time firearm purchase during the COVID-19 pandemic (adjusted OR, 1.77; 95% CI, 1.56-2.02) and greater likelihood of considering a future firearm purchase (adjusted OR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.23-1.90).
Conclusions and relevance: In this study, current and planned firearm ownership was common among individuals with major depressive symptoms, suggesting a public health opportunity to address this conjunction of suicide risk factors.