Surveillance for Violent Deaths — National Violent Death Reporting System, 39 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, 2018
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Surveillance for Violent Deaths — National Violent Death Reporting System, 39 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, 2018

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  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      MMWR Surveill Summ
    • Description:

      In 2018, approximately 68,000 persons died of violence-related injuries in the U.S. This report summarizes data from CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) on violent deaths that occurred in 39 states the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico in 2018. Results are reported by sex, age group, race and ethnicity, method of injury, type of location where the injury occurred, circumstances of injury, and other selected characteristics.

      Period Covered


      Description of System

      NVDRS collects data regarding violent deaths obtained from death Certificates, coroner and medical examiner reports, and law enforcement reports. This report includes data collected for violent deaths that occurred in 2018. Data were collected from 36 states with statewide data (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin), three states with data from counties representing a subset of their population (21 California counties, 28 Illinois counties, and 39 Pennsylvania counties), the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. NVDRS collates information for each death and links deaths that are related (e.g., multiple homicides, homicide followed by suicide, or multiple suicides) into a single incident.


      For 2018, NVDRS collected information on 52,773 fatal incidents involving 54,170 deaths that occurred in 39 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, information was collected on 880 fatal incidents involving 975 deaths in Puerto Rico. Data for Puerto Rico were analyzed separately. Of the 54,170 deaths, the majority (64.1%) were suicides, followed by homicides (24.8%), deaths of undetermined intent (9.0%), legal intervention deaths (1.4%) (i.e., deaths caused by law enforcement and other persons with legal authority to use deadly force acting in the line of duty, excluding legal executions), and unintentional firearm deaths (<1.0%). (The term “legal intervention” is a classification incorporated into the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, and does not denote the lawfulness or legality of the circumstances surrounding a death caused by law enforcement.) Demographic patterns and circumstances varied by manner of death. The suicide rate was higher among males than among females and was highest among adults aged 35–64 years and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) and non-Hispanic White persons. The most common method of injury for suicide was a firearm among males and hanging, strangulation, or suffocation among females. Suicide was most often preceded by a mental health, intimate partner, or physical health problem, or a recent or impending crisis during the previous or upcoming 2 weeks. The homicide rate was highest among persons aged 20–24 years and was higher among males than females. Non-Hispanic Black males experienced the highest homicide rate of any racial or ethnic group. The most common method of injury for homicide was a firearm. When the relationship between a homicide victim and a suspect was known, the suspect was most frequently an acquaintance or friend for male victims and a current or former intimate partner for female victims. Homicides most often were precipitated by an argument or conflict, occurred in conjunction with another crime, or, for female victims, were related to intimate partner violence. Homicide suspects were primarily male and the highest proportion were aged 25–44 years. When race and ethnicity information was known, non-Hispanic Black persons comprised the largest group of suspects overall and among those aged ≤44 years, and non-Hispanic White persons comprised the largest group of suspects among those aged ≥45 years. Almost all legal intervention deaths were experienced by males, and the legal intervention death rate was highest among males aged 30–34 years. Non-Hispanic AI/AN males had the highest legal intervention death rate, followed by non-Hispanic Black males. A firearm was used in the majority of legal intervention deaths. When a specific type of crime was known to have precipitated a legal intervention death, the type of crime was most frequently assault or homicide. The most frequent circumstances reported for legal intervention deaths were use of a weapon by the victim in the incident and a mental health or perceived substance use problem (other than alcohol use). Law enforcement officers who inflicted fatal injuries in the context of legal intervention deaths were primarily males aged 25–44 years. Unintentional firearm deaths were most frequently experienced by males, non-Hispanic White persons, and persons aged 15–24 years. These deaths most often occurred while the shooter was playing with a firearm and most frequently were precipitated by a person unintentionally pulling the trigger or mistakenly thinking that the firearm was unloaded. The rate of deaths of undetermined intent was highest among males, particularly among non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic AI/AN males, and among persons aged 45–54 years. Poisoning was the most common method of injury in deaths of undetermined intent, and opioids were detected in approximately 80% of decedents tested for those substances.


      This report provides a detailed summary of data from NVDRS on violent deaths that occurred in 2018. The suicide rate was highest among non-Hispanic AI/AN and non-Hispanic White males, and the homicide rate was highest among non-Hispanic Black males. Mental health problems, intimate partner problems, interpersonal conflicts, and acute life stressors were primary circumstances for multiple types of violent death. Circumstances for suspects of homicide varied by age group and included having prior contact with law enforcement and involvement in incidents that were precipitated by another crime, intimate partner violence, and drug dealing or substance use.

      Public Health Action

      NVDRS data are used to monitor the occurrence of violence-related fatal injuries and assist public health authorities in developing, implementing, and evaluating programs, policies, and practices to reduce and prevent violent deaths. For example, Arizona and Wisconsin used their state-level VDRS data to support suicide Prevention efforts within their respective states. Wisconsin VDRS used multiple years of data (2013–2017) to identify important risk and protective factors and subsequently develop a comprehensive suicide Prevention plan. Arizona VDRS partners with the Arizona Be Connected Initiative to provide customized community-level data on veteran suicide deaths in Arizona. Similarly, states participating in NVDRS have used their VDRS data to examine intimate partner violence–related deaths to support Prevention efforts. For example, data from the South Carolina VDRS were used to examine intimate partner homicides that occurred in South Carolina during 2017. South Carolina VDRS found that 12% of all homicides that occurred in 2017 were intimate partner violence–related, with females accounting for 52% of intimate partner homicide–related victims. These data were shared with domestic violence Prevention collaborators in South Carolina to bolster their efforts in reducing intimate partner violence–related deaths. In 2018, NVDRS data included four additional states compared with 2017, providing more comprehensive and actionable violent death information for public health efforts to reduce violent deaths.

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