VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Researchers at Stetson University are releasing the results of their study into whether video games, economic factors or gun ownership are most related to homicide and suicides across the globe, and the answer may surprise many.
What You Need To Know
- A new Stetson University study examines what factors are most connected to people who turn to suicide or homicide
- Researchers say economic factors are the best predictors of homicide rates
- Countries with more highly educated populations were prone to have higher suicide rates, the study found
“Basically our analysis is a cross national analysis of 92 countries looking at whether violent video games, or just actually video game playing in general, economic factors like income inequality of human capitol index or per capita gun ownership were related to homicides and suicides,” said Ferguson, a professor of Psychology at Stetson.
While he shared that there are many theories that link this behavior to video game play or gun ownership, those are not the best predictors
“Most of the best predictors actually were the economic factors so with homicides, countries that had income inequality tended to have higher homicide rates.. which probably makes some degree," said Ferguson. "With suicides, countries that had high human capital index, in other words, countries that were more highly educated and had more career opportunities tended to have higher suicide rates”
In November, Orange County Deputies rushed to Little Econ greenway after someone called 911 saying there was a man on the edge of the bridge. Body camera video captured a man that had something around his throat and a razor blade pressed to his neck. Sargent Anthony Shea was one of the first on scene.
“The gentleman had lost his job, he was disconnected from his family, he was going through a lot. of issues in his life, depression and he was just in a bad spot when we met him on the bridge,” said Sgt. Shea.
Shea connected with him, sharing that he lost his own sister to suicide and did not want to see the man take the same path.
“Please do’t hurt yourself, look at me, look at me. Don’t be my sister,” said Shea, in a compassionate moment captured by body cam.
Shea said it was clear the man was having a hard time.
"Well, I think a lot of it was the economic impact," he said. "He had on means to pay his bills and no support system, so I think that was the biggest struggle he was having at that time.”
Shea, who has been with OCSO for 15 years, said economic factors often play a role in the cases he responds to.
“We’ve actually. had negotiations where that was a part of the situation many many times throughout my years here at the sheriff’s office," said Shea.
Ferguson said the results of this research is good news for parents concerned with the impacts of video games on their children. He said the bigger surprise came with gun ownership.
“People kind of think well guns make suicides easier just like they make homicides easier and that certainly is true and I am not trying to diminish that argument but it does seem like in other cultures if people have the incentive to commit suicide that they still find the means to do so even if the gun ownership is relatively low," said Ferguson.
Ferguson said policy change in needed to lower suicide and homicide rates.
“The first part is to listen and to listen to everybody and try to figure out where the system is failing people , if we don’t do that and we don’t put policies in place, or we do them inn a way that is still perceived as unfair, that sense of unfairness will persist and we or going to get more, or at least there is a risk that that violence will increase,” said Ferguson. "We got to figure out some way to cool off all the anger and lack of hope that people have about the future and figure out ways to get people back on board, in the sense of we are all in the row boat together."
As for Shea, he said he’ll be there to help anyone who finds themselves in a dark place.
“I think that is why all of us put this uniform on to help society to help people,” said Shea.
If you or someone you know is having homicidal thoughts, please call 911.
If you or someone you know is considering self harm, call the National Suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255.