Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Black men are twice as likely as white males to die before age 20, and likely due to gun violence, while white males are more likely to die of suicide.
Researchers at Boston University found that, compared to other countries, all men in the United States had life expectancy loss of 21 percent due to firearms. The findings were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association after an analysis of death data pulled from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers looked at life expectancy loss statistics from homicides and suicides, which broke down by race, from 2000 to 2016.
"We already knew that there is a loss in life expectancy. However, we did not know how much of it was due to firearm injury," Bindu Kalesan, a clinical epidemiologist at Boston University and study co-author, told UPI. "We already knew that there is a racial disparity in firearm death rates. However, we did not know whether white and black Americans died young or old and by what intent resulted in what amount of loss of life."
Between 2000 and 2014, life expectancy in the United States grew from 76.8 years in 2000 to 78.7 years in 2014. Then those numbers took a dip.
Life expectancy in the U.S. ticked down slightly from 2014 to 2015 by 0.1 year, a small yet significant number that represented the nation's first decline in life expectancy in 50 years -- a decline that continued in 2016. Deaths related to drug overdoses and suicides were two factors that drove the number down.
However, the researchers wanted to explore how racial disparity in gun violence affected the declines in the national life expectancy.
The CDC statistics show the majority of firearm deaths claim the lives of black males, usually under age 20.
In fact, gun violence-related deaths were the biggest firearm-related reason for declining life expectancy for black males, with 16 out of 100,000 deaths attributed to it. Black males face a total life expectancy loss of 4.14 years for any type of firearm-related death, according to the data. Life expectancy for black males begins to pick up again after age 20.
For white males, suicides were most responsible for declining life expectancy at 7.2 per 100,000 deaths attributed to firearms -- and overall, firearms related to a loss of 2.23 years. That decline for white males begins after age 20.
Kalesan thinks that opportunities, and not stricter policing, can help ease the gun violence that plagues many communities around the country.
"Victims of gun violence are victims not criminals. So increasing policing alone may not be the answer. Building social capital, education, reducing housing instability, etc. may also be answers," Kalesan said. "As of now, the focus on ameliorating firearm violence has been solely rooted in policies."
Life expectancy loss rate for black males age 20 drops to 4.14 for every 100,000.
"Now that we know that the burden of death lies among young black Americans for assault and older white Americans for suicide, we need to have social programs to reduce the burden of death," Kalesan said. "In particular, without adding to the stigma."