Study: Mass murders more likely to commit suicide than other types of murderers

Prevalent debates in global politics include topics such as education reform, budget control, and environmental sustainability, but maybe one of the most essential issue that is often ignored is public violence.

Many U.S. media outlets provide a tremendous amount of coverage to an unusual type of perpetrator, mass murderers. Mass murderers, defined as murderers who commit four or more homicides in a single incident, are less likely to care about their health than other types of murderers, according to a study published earlier this summer in The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology. Understanding the importance of this issue, researchers aimed to learn more about the causes of this national crisis.

The study focused on the differences between 308 mass murderers, who committed their crimes between 2006 and 2014. Researchers were particularly interested in two groups: mass murderers who lived through their attacks and those who did not.

According to the study, in the United States the amount of mass murderers who committed suicide is 26 percent higher than those who were homicide offenders. This difference in outcomes, for both types of perpetrators, is at the core of this study. Researchers also took into consideration “offender age, offender sex, number of co-offenders (if any), whether or not the offender used a firearm, the number of victims killed, and the attack type.”

Using statistical analysis, researchers found that 31 percent of mass murderers died after their crimes. On average, perpetrators who did not survive their murder spree killed 0.9 more people on average. Researchers also presented other trends in mass murderers: those perpetrators who died “were older, less likely to have co-offenders, and more likely to commit public killings or family killings.”

Across the United States, the older someone is, the higher their suicide rates, with the highest rates occurring in the senior citizens age group (65 years and older). This factor may play into the trend of older mass murderers being more likely to die.

Statistically, the likelihood that as a member of the general public one would be witness to or injured in a mass murder is extremely slim. Media coverage often exaggerates the danger of mass murderers, which causes extreme amounts of fear in the general public. People’s major fears usually lie in things as uncommon as mass murderer events, instead of those fears lying in a much more prevalent and common danger, such as car accidents.

Regardless, it is important to have a precautionary understanding of these tragic events; recognizing the warning signs of mass murderers’ sprees could reduce the “prevalence of these high-fatality crimes.” Potential victims would benefit by further research into the causes of mass murders, which starts with examining the possible perpetrators. By focusing on critical risk factors, researchers could help prevent future mass murders. Encouraging those with mental illnesses to seek treatment is an important prevention tactic society has at its disposal.