Survivors of gun violence and their families see a spike in medical costs and the prevalence of psychiatric disorders and substance use disorders in the months after an injury, a study from Harvard Medical School researchers shows.
The research, published this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, was based on patient records over 10 years.
It included information from 6,498 survivors of firearm injuries, matched to 32,490 control individuals, and 12,489 family members, including significant others, parents and children of survivors of gun violence injuries, compared with 62,445 control individuals. It also included survivors’ records from one year before a firearm injury through one year after.
The study found that those injured by a firearm, over the course of a year, saw an average of $2,495 more in health care spending a month after an injury compared with their peers. The costs include payments from insurers and out-of-pocket costs.
But the study included information ranging beyond medical care costs. It also found that people who survived being injured by a firearm saw a 40% increase in pain diagnoses, a 51% increase in psychiatric disorders and an 85% increase in substance use disorders. Family members saw a 12% increase in psychiatric disorders in the year after a victim’s injury. That includes depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
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“Our study reveals that, in addition to the obvious physical consequences of gunshot wounds, there are substantial mental health repercussions for both the survivors and their family members through a year following a shooting,” said study lead author Dr. Zirui Song, associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Understanding how firearm injuries reverberate across peoples’ lives and families provides insights that we can use to provide better care for patients,” Song said.
The findings mark one of the first large-scale studies to examine the “health and financial impact of gunshot wounds over the course of a full year,” as well as “one of the first studies to measure the health impact on the families of gunshot survivors,” according to a statement from Harvard Medical School.
More Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2020 than in any other recorded year, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention and Pew Research Center, including a record number of gun murders and a near-record number of suicides.
The rate of gun deaths in 2020, however, was lower than in previous years, accounting for the nation’s growing population, according to Pew.