A new study has shed light on the profound and long-lasting health consequences of childhood gunshot injuries on survivors and their families. The research explores the physical, mental, and financial toll of firearm-related incidents, emphasizing the need for increased gun safety measures in order to protect children and teens who are increasingly exposed to firearms.
The study’s findings reinforce the devastating ripple effects of childhood gun injuries on survivors and their families. The physical, mental, and financial toll highlights the urgent need for comprehensive gun safety measures to protect children and teens from firearm-related incidents. Medical professionals play a crucial role in promoting gun safety and counseling families on the importance of firearm safety. By adopting a trauma-informed approach and raising awareness about the long-lasting impact of gun injuries, steps can be taken to prevent future tragedies and ensure the well-being of our youth.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School, reveals alarming statistics regarding the health impact of childhood gun injuries. Comparing data from over 2,000 child and adolescent gunshot survivors with a control group of similar young individuals, the researchers found that survivors experienced a 68 percent increase in psychiatric disorders and a staggering 144 percent increase in substance use disorders compared to their peers who did not suffer firearm injuries.
Furthermore, the average healthcare spending for these survivors in the first year alone was $34,884 more than their pre-injury spending, underscoring the significant financial burden placed on families in the aftermath of such incidents. The study also highlights the heightened risk of psychiatric disorders among parents whose children sustained gunshot injuries, with a 30 percent increase compared to parents whose children were not affected.
Mental health effects on siblings
Interestingly, the research reveals that the mental health effects on siblings of survivors often go underrecognized. Despite the traumatic experience, siblings did not exhibit an increase in mental health care visits or diagnoses. This finding suggests a potential gap in support and emphasizes the need for greater recognition and assistance for siblings who also bear the emotional weight of familial trauma.
The study also delves into the profound effects experienced by family members who have lost a child or sibling to firearm injuries. These individuals experienced more than twice as many psychiatric disorders after their loss than before it, with fathers in particular exhibiting a dramatic increase of over five times in psychiatric disorders. Mothers of children who were killed had a 15-fold increase in mental health visits, while fathers experienced an astonishing 87-fold increase.
Call for gun safety
Given that firearms have become the leading cause of death among children and teens in the United States, surpassing car accidents, the study highlights the urgent need for improved gun safety measures. With approximately 30 million children living in households with firearms and the number of children living in households with at least one firearm increasing by 5 million since 2019, it is crucial for everyone to prioritise gun safety.