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Gun injuries cost US nearly $3bn a year in hospital charges

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4641 (Published 06 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4641
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

Firearm injuries cost the United States $2.8bn (£2.1bn; €2.4bn) a year in hospital charges and $46bn a year in lost work and medical care, a new study has shown.

The report in Health Affairs analyzed a nationally representative sample of patients who presented alive to US hospital emergency departments with firearm related injuries between 2006 and 2014.1

The authors, using data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, identified 151 000 patients—representing a weighted total of 705 000 patients nationally—who presented with gunshot wounds in the eight year period. The study found that men and boys were nine times as likely as women and girls to be the victims of gunshot injuries, with men aged 20 to 24 at the highest risk.

More than a third (37.2%) of the injured patients were admitted to inpatient care, while 8.3% died in the emergency department or during inpatient admission, the study found.

The mean charges per person were $5254 for emergency department patients and $95 887 for inpatients, resulting in the annual financial burden of around $2.8bn, the study estimated.

The authors said, “Despite the high clinical and financial burden associated with firearm-related injuries, resources allocated to preventing them remain low. Future policies related to firearms should focus on better understanding and preventing these injuries.

“Although future research is warranted to better understand firearm-related injuries, policymakers might consider implementing universal background checks for firearm purchases and limiting access to firearms for people with a history of violence or previous convictions to reduce the clinical and financial burden associated with these injuries.”

Meanwhile a new research letter published by JAMA Internal Medicine compared the proportion of terrorist attacks committed with firearms in the US with the proportion in other high income countries, and compared the deadliness of attacks with firearms with those by other means.2 In countries with 10 or more terrorist attacks, the proportion involving firearms was higher in the US (20.4%) than in any other countries. Seconds was the Netherlands (14.3%). Overall, firearms were used in less than 10% of terrorist attacks between 2002 and 2016 but accounted for about 55% of the deaths.

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