Restriction of access to suicide methods has been shown to effectively reduce suicide mortality rates.
To examine how the global economic crisis of 2008 and the firearm legislation reform of 1997 affected suicide and homicide mortality rate within Austria.
Official data for the years 1985–2016 for firearm certificates, suicide, homicide, unemployment rates and alcohol consumption were examined using auto regressive error and Poisson regression models.
Firearm certificates, total suicide mortality rate, suicide and homicides by firearms, and the fraction of firearm suicides/homicides among all suicides/homicides decreased after the firearm legislation reform in 1997. However, significant trend changes can be observed after 2008. The availability of firearm certificates significantly increased and was accompanied by significant changes in trends of firearm suicide and homicide rates. Concurrently, the total suicide mortality rate in 2008, for the first time since 1985, stopped its decreasing trend. While the total homicide rate further decreased, the fraction of firearm homicides among all homicides significantly increased.
The initially preventative effect of the firearm legislation reform in Austria in 1997 seems to have been counteracted by the global economic downturn of 2008. Increased firearm availability was associated with corresponding increases in both firearm suicide and firearm homicide mortality. Restrictive firearm legislation should be an imperative part of a country’s suicide prevention programme. Although firearm legislation reform may have long-lasting effects, societal changes may facilitate compensatory firearm acquisitions and thus counteract preventive efforts, calling in turn again for adapted counter-measures.