Morbidity and mortality associated with gun violence in the United States

1. Firearm use and related crime rates, deaths and injuries have increased disproportionately in the United States compared to other high-income countries over the last decade.

2. Firearm related violence is associated with significant financial, psychosocial and physical harm to communities.

3. Individual and community-level preventative efforts around firearm-related violence and a greater awareness of related implications of firearm use are warranted in the United States and globally.

Study Rundown: Firearm usage, crime rates, related deaths and injuries have significantly increased in the United States over the last decade. Compared to other high income countries, firearm-related death rates were over 11-fold higher in the United States compared to 28 other high-income countries in 2015, with disproportionately higher rates of firearm deaths, firearm homicides, public mass shootings, and both civilian and police deaths in encounters. Firearm suicide rates were higher in rural settings, among men and older adults, and among White communities compared to Black communities. In comparison, firearm homicide victimization rate were higher in urban settings, among Black communities compared to White communities, among men, and ages 20 to 24 years.

While data on firearm related fatalities is generally reliable, data on non-fatal shootings through the Centers for Disease Control is less reliable in the United States. Similarly, crime-related gun use estimates are likely underestimated.

Apart from death and injuries, firearms and exposure to violence also contribute towards other problems and related costs. These include an increased risk of psychiatric (e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and others), emotional (e.g. withdrawal, anger, nervousness and despair), behavioral (e.g. substance abuse, violence, poor academic performance, promiscuous behavior) and health complications (e.g. asthma, heart disease and others). Community-level costs related to firearm injuries and deaths through Medicaid, insurance premiums and uncompensated debt, as well as those related to criminal law enforcement and downstream consequences of ‘high crime’ communities may be considered. National medical costs of initial hospitalizations for firearm injury have been estimated close to $750 million per year, and do not account for significant hospital-related expenditures and high re-admission rates with related complications.

This review identifies the United States as an outlier in terms of firearm related morbidity and mortality, and related financial, psychosocial and health related sequelae for victims, perpetrators and communities. The findings call for individual and community-level preventative efforts around firearm related violence and a greater awareness of their related implications in the United States and globally.

Click to read the study in Current Trauma Reports

Relevant reading: Global Mortality From Firearms: 1960-2016

Image: PD

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