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Surveillance for violent deaths — National Violent Death Reporting System, 27 States, 2015
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  • Description:
    Problem/Condition: In 2015, approximately 62,000 persons died in the United States as a result of violence-related injuries. This report summarizes data from CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) regarding violent deaths from 27 U.S. states for 2015. Results are reported by sex, age group, race/ethnicity, location of injury, method of injury, circumstances of injury, and other selected characteristics.

    Reporting Period: 2015.

    Description of System: NVDRS collects data regarding violent deaths obtained from death certificates, coroner/medical examiner reports, law enforcement reports, and secondary sources (e.g., child fatality review team data, supplemental homicide reports, hospital data, and crime laboratory data). This report includes data from 27 states that collected statewide data for 2015 (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin). NVDRS collates documents for each death and links deaths that are related (e.g., multiple homicides, a homicide followed by a suicide, or multiple suicides) into a single incident.

    Results: For 2015, NVDRS captured 30,628 fatal incidents involving 31,415 deaths in the 27 states included in this report. The majority (65.1%) of deaths were suicides, followed by homicides (23.5%), deaths of undetermined intent (9.5%), legal intervention deaths (1.3%) (i.e., deaths caused by law enforcement and other persons with legal authority to use deadly force, 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 [ICD-10] and does not denote the lawfulness or legality of the circumstances surrounding a death caused by law enforcement.) Demographic patterns varied by manner of death. Suicide rates were highest among males, non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Natives, non-Hispanic whites, adults aged 45–54 years, and men aged ≥75 years. The most common method of injury was a firearm. Suicides often were preceded by a mental health, intimate partner, substance abuse, or physical health problem, or a crisis during the previous or upcoming 2 weeks. Homicide rates were higher among males and persons aged <1 year and 20–34 years. Among males, non-Hispanic blacks accounted for the majority of homicides and had the highest rate of any racial/ethnic group. Homicides primarily involved a firearm, were precipitated by arguments and interpersonal conflicts, were related to intimate partner violence (particularly for females), or occurred in conjunction with another crime. When the relationship between a homicide victim and a suspected perpetrator was known, an acquaintance/friend or an intimate partner frequently was involved. Legal intervention death rates were highest among males and persons aged 20–54 years; rates among non-Hispanic black males were approximately double the rates of those among non-Hispanic white males. Precipitating circumstances for legal intervention deaths most frequently were an alleged criminal activity in progress, the victim reportedly using a weapon in the incident, a mental health or substance abuse problem (other than alcohol abuse), an argument or conflict, or a recent crisis (during the previous or upcoming 2 weeks). Unintentional firearm deaths were more frequent among males, non-Hispanic whites, and persons aged 10–24 years; these deaths most often occurred while the shooter was playing with a firearm and most often were precipitated by a person unintentionally pulling the trigger or mistakenly thinking the firearm was unloaded. Deaths of undetermined intent were more frequent among males, particularly non-Hispanic black and American Indian/Alaska Native males, and persons aged 30–54 years. Substance abuse, mental health problems, physical health problems, and a recent crisis were the most common circumstances preceding deaths of undetermined intent. In 2015, approximately 3,000 current or former military personnel died by suicide. The majority of these decedents were male, non-Hispanic white, and aged 45–74 years. Most suicides among military personnel involved a firearm and were precipitated by mental health, physical health, and intimate partner problems, as well as a recent crisis.

    Interpretation: This report provides a detailed summary of data from NVDRS for 2015. The results indicate that deaths resulting from self-inflicted or interpersonal violence most frequently affect males and certain age groups and minority populations. Mental health problems, intimate partner problems, interpersonal conflicts, and general life stressors were primary precipitating events for multiple types of violent deaths, including suicides among current or former military personnel.

    Public Health Action: NVDRS data are used to monitor the occurrence of violence-related fatal injuries and assist public health authorities in the development, implementation, and evaluation of programs and policies to reduce and prevent violent deaths. For example, Virginia VDRS data are used to help identify suicide risk factors among active duty service members, Oregon VDRS suicide data are used to coordinate information and activities across community agencies that support veterans and active duty service members, and Arizona VDRS data are used to develop recommendations for primary care providers who deliver care to veterans. The continued development and expansion of NVDRS to include all 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia are essential to public health efforts to reduce deaths due to violence.

    Suggested citation for this article: Jack SP, Petrosky E, Lyons BH, et al. Surveillance for Violent Deaths — National Violent Death Reporting System, 27 States, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ 2018;67(No. SS-11):1–32. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6711a1.

  • DOI:
    10.15585/mmwr.ss6711a1
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