A new study has revealed that emergency room visits for children injured by firearms nearly doubled during the pandemic. Firearms have been responsible for more child deaths than any other cause since 2020.
Findings of the Study
According to the study led by Dr. Jennifer Hoffman, a pediatric emergency medicine physician, pediatric emergency room visits due to gun shots increased by 74% during the pandemic. The death rate among gun victims age 18 and under also nearly doubled, from 3.1% to 6.1%.
Understanding the Increase
The increase in child firearm injuries during the pandemic was initially attributed to a surge in firearm purchases, heightened emotions, and changes in daily routines. However, the elevated levels of visits persisted even as the impact of the pandemic decreased.
Disparities in Injuries
The study found that gunshot-related pediatric emergency room visits increased only among Black and Hispanic youth, indicating a widening of disparities that already existed before the pandemic.
The data does not offer clear clues about the possible origins of the alarming trend. Factors such as increased gun buying, poor teen mental health, and rising community violence levels may contribute to the rising numbers of incidents. However, there are likely other unknown causes at play.
The Impact on Families
Research on gun violence often focuses on fatalities, but there is a larger number of people who sustain firearm injuries and survive. The study by Dr. Zirui Song reveals the shared family trauma that occurs when a child is injured or killed by gunfire. It also shows a significant increase in psychiatric disorders among the parents of survivors and a decrease in routine medical care for siblings and mothers of survivors.
The Economic Burden
Healthcare spending for young survivors of firearm injuries increased by an average of $34,884 in the first year after being injured. This economic burden is shouldered by insurers and employers, highlighting the need to address gun violence as an economic issue in addition to a medical and public health issue.
The Urgent Need for Research
Researchers are rushing to fill the gap left by years of growing gun ownership without adequate resources to track it. The study highlights the need to better understand the causes of increased gun violence and take necessary action to protect children.
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