Mental illness doesn't cause gun violence, contrary to popular opinion, a new study says.
People with access to firearms were 18 times more to threaten someone than people with no access, according to research published January in Preventive Medicine. But mental health status didn't factor into whether a person would pick up a gun, researchers say.
"Counter to public beliefs, the majority of mental health symptoms examined were not related to gun violence," Yu Lu, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and study lead author, said in a news release.
The researchers gathered their findings after asking young adults in Texas whether they owned firearms. They also asked about the particpants anxiety, depression, stress, posttraumatic stress disorder, hostility, impulsivity, borderline personality disorder, mental health treatment and other demographic details.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 75,000 to 100,000 Americans are shot by firearms and 30,000 to 40,000 die from firearms annually.
"Much of the limited research on gun violence and mental illness has focused on violence among individuals with severe mental illnesses or rates of mental illness among individuals arrested for violent crimes," Lu said. "What we found is that the link between mental illness and gun violence is not there."
In addition to someone with access to a firearm being 18.15 times more likely to threaten someone with one, but individuals with "high hostility" were 3.51 times more likely to issue such a threat, researchers report, after controlling for demographic factors and prior mental health treatment.
The researchers also found that people with access to firearms were 4.74 times more likely to carry one, those who report owning a firearm were 5.22 more likely to carry one and people with "high impulsivity" were 1.91 times more likely to carry outside their homes. The rates were reported after controlling for prior gun carrying, mental health treatment and demographic factors.
In December, the federal government wrote a report that stressed the need to give students better access to mental health services to help prevent school shootings.
A recent study also linked more handguns in homes to an increase in youth shootings.
"Taking all this information together, limiting access to guns, regardless of any other mental health status, demographics or prior mental health treatments, is the key to reducing gun violence," said Jeff Temple, a researcher at UTMB and study author.