National Violent Death Reporting System
Tragically, more than 44,000 people died by suicide in the United States in 2015. Homicide claimed over 17,000 people.1 Violence is preventable; we know these numbers can be lowered.
The National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) provides states and communities with a clearer understanding of violent deaths to guide local decisions about efforts to prevent violence and track progress over time. NVDRS is the only state-based surveillance (reporting) system that pools data on violent deaths from multiple sources into a usable, anonymous database. These sources include state and local medical examiner, coroner, law enforcement, toxicology, and vital statistics records.
NVDRS covers all types of violent deaths—including homicides and suicides—in all settings and for all age groups. NVDRS may include data on mental health problems; recent problems with a job, finances, or relationships; physical health problems; and information about circumstances of death. Such data is far more comprehensive than what is available elsewhere.
To stop violent deaths, we must first understand all the facts. Created in 2002, NVDRS is a surveillance system that pulls together data on violent deaths in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico (see map to the right), including information about homicides, such as homicides perpetrated by an intimate partner (e.g., boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband), child abuse and neglect or child abuse homicides, suicides, and deaths where individuals are killed by law enforcement in the line of duty. The system also collects data on unintentional firearm injury deaths and deaths of undetermined intent.
CDC continues to improve the NVDRS system by promoting greater functionality and improved access to data. In 2013, NVDRS moved to a web-based system that makes the data easily accessible. These data inform the development, implementation, and evaluation of violence prevention strategies, which can ultimately save lives.
Data are available online to the general public through CDC’s WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System).
Linking information about the “who, when, where and how” from data on violent deaths provides insights about “why” they occurred. Frontline investigators, including homicide detectives, coroners, crime lab investigators and medical examiners, collect valuable information about violent deaths. But these data are often not combined in a systematic manner to provide a complete picture.
NVDRS collects facts from four major sources about the same incident, and pools information into a usable, anonymous database. An incident can include one victim or multiple victims. The four major data sources are:
- Death certificates;
- Coroner/medical examiner reports;
- Law enforcement reports; and
- Toxicology reports
The facts that are collected about violent deaths include:
- Circumstances related to suicide such as depression and major life stresses like relationship or financial problems;
- The relationship between the perpetrator and the victim – for example, if they know each other;
- Other crimes, such as robbery, committed along with homicide;
- Multiple homicides, or homicide followed by suicide.
As data become available through the NVDRS online database, state and local violence prevention practitioners use it to guide prevention programs, policies, and practices by:
- Identifying common circumstances associated with violent deaths of a specific type (e.g., committed during a crime such as robbery, gang violence, or intimate partner violence) or a specific area (e.g., a cluster of suicides);
- Assisting groups in selecting and targeting violence prevention efforts;
- Supporting evaluations of violence prevention activities; and
- Improving the public’s access to in-depth information on violent deaths.
- NVDRS: Stories from the Frontlines of Violent Death Surveillance [PDF 10.1MB], a report produced by Safe States Alliance which includes an Overview of NVDRS and nine State Profiles.
- Data Supports Suicide Prevention in Older Adults [PDF 175KB]
- Data Guides Suicide Prevention Efforts in New Jersey [PDF 176KB]
- Data Help Describe Suicide Problem in Utah [PDF 150KB]