Surveillance for Violent Deaths — National Violent Death Reporting System, 48 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, 2020
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Surveillance for Violent Deaths — National Violent Death Reporting System, 48 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, 2020

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  • Alternative Title:
    MMWR Surveill Summ
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  • Description:

    In 2020, approximately 71,000 persons died of violence-related injuries in the United States. This report summarizes data from CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) on violent deaths that occurred in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico in 2020. 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 records, and law enforcement reports. This report includes data collected for violent deaths that occurred in 2020. Data were collected from 48 states (all states with exception of Florida and Hawaii), the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Forty-six states had statewide data, two additional states had data from counties representing a subset of their population (35 California counties, representing 71% of its population, and four Texas counties, representing 39% of its population), and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had jurisdiction-wide data. NVDRS collates information for each violent death and links deaths that are related (e.g., multiple homicides, homicide followed by suicide, or multiple suicides) into a single incident.


    For 2020, NVDRS collected information on 64,388 fatal incidents involving 66,017 deaths that occurred in 48 states (46 states collecting statewide data, 35 California counties, and four Texas counties), and the District of Columbia. In addition, information was collected for 729 fatal incidents involving 790 deaths in Puerto Rico. Data for Puerto Rico were analyzed separately. Of the 66,017 deaths, the majority (58.4%) were suicides, followed by homicides (31.3%), deaths of undetermined intent (8.2%), legal intervention deaths (1.3%) (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.


    This report provides a detailed summary of data from NVDRS on violent deaths that occurred in 2020. The suicide rate was highest among AI/AN and White males, whereas the homicide rate was highest among Black male victims. Intimate partner violence precipitated a large proportion of homicides for females. Mental health problems, intimate partner problems, interpersonal conflicts, and acute life stressors were primary circumstances for multiple types of violent death.

    Public Health Action

    Violence is preventable, and states and communities can use data to guide 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, the Colorado Violent Death Reporting System (VDRS), Kentucky VDRS, and Oregon VDRS have used their VDRS data to guide suicide prevention efforts and generate reports highlighting where additional focus is needed. In Colorado, VDRS data were used to examine the increased risk for suicide among first and last responders in the state. Kentucky VDRS used local data to highlight how psychological and social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic might increase risk for suicide, particularly among vulnerable populations. Oregon VDRS used their data to develop a publicly available data dashboard displaying firearm mortality trends and rates in support of the state’s firearm safety campaign. Similarly, states participating in NVDRS have used their VDRS data to examine homicide in their state. Illinois VDRS, for example, found that state budget cuts were associated with notable increases in homicides among youths in Chicago. With an increase of participating states and jurisdictions, this report marks progress toward providing nationally representative data.

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