The Trauma of Youth Gun Deaths and Injuries on Survivors and Their Families
Sunday, November 11th, 2023
This week’s core story is about: The lasting trauma of gun violence among youth.
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KNEAD TO KNOW
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau projects the U.S. population will reach a high of 370 million in 2080 before decreasing to 366 million in 2100. The projections show the population can increase if immigration increases, reaching up to 435 million under a high immigration scenario. However, continued declines in fertility will shift the age structure of the U.S. so there will be more adults over 65 than children under 18 by the end of the century.
A new study by researchers at Columbia University found one in five mothers report delaying or skipping needed medical care in the year after giving birth. The study reported data on people with Medicaid and those with commercial insurance, finding one in four Medicaid beneficiaries reported no health care use at all in the year after birth. The study also found social needs, including food insecurity, financial strain, and intimate partner violence, were significantly higher among the Medicaid population.
New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows 12.6% of high school students reported using tobacco products in 2023, down from 16.5% in 2022. The decline was led by a decrease in e-cigarette/vape use among high school students (down to 10.0% in 2023 from 14.1% in 2022), translating to around 580,000 fewer students using e-cigarettes. At the same time, the CDC also found an increase in overall tobacco use among middle school students (up to 6.6% from 4.5%).
A new survey by Gallup found just 11% of Afghan women say they’re satisfied with the freedom they have to choose what they do with their lives. The figure (down from 29% in 2022) marks a new record low not only for Afghanistan, but for any country or population that Gallup has ever polled. Gallup also found more than 90% of all Afghans are classified as “suffering,” the highest level of suffering Gallup has measured in any country since 2005.
The Trauma of Youth Gun Deaths and Injuries on Survivors and Their Families
A new study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School examines the mental and behavioral health consequences of firearm deaths and injuries among children, finding the trauma ripples through survivors and their families, and sends health care costs soaring.
The study included 2,052 child and adolescent survivors of gun injuries, 6,209 members of survivors’ families, and 265 family members of children who died from gunshot wounds, comparing each to several, much larger control groups that did not experience firearm injuries.
The team found that one year after firearm injuries, child and adolescent survivors experienced a 144% increase in substance use disorders, a 117% increase in pain disorders, and a 68% increase in psychiatric disorders.
Beyond children, parents of survivors also experienced a 31% increase in psychiatric disorders, with 75% more mental health visits by mothers. Family members of children killed by guns experienced an even larger 2.3- to 5.3-fold (130% to 430%) increase in psychiatric disorders, with a 15-fold increase in mental health visits among mothers and a staggering 87-fold increase among fathers.
The study also found health care spending by survivors in the first year after injury increased 17-fold, rising by an average of $34,884 relative to the control group. Previous research by the same lead author of the present study, Zirui Song, estimated the overall economic cost of gun injuries in the U.S. to be $557 billion annually, or around 2.6% of gross domestic product.
Why it matters:
Since 2020, more American children and adolescents have died from gunshot wounds than any other cause, including car accidents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2022 alone, more than 4,500 young people died from gun injuries.
“Children are increasingly exposed to firearms, and our study shows the magnitude of medical, psychological and economic effects of both non-fatal and fatal firearm injuries on survivors, family members, and society,” said Song.
“We believe these findings can better inform the clinical care of people affected by firearm injuries—not only survivors who face often challenging roads to recovery, but also their siblings, parents and potentially other loved ones.”
The researchers are calling on health care systems to develop a more comprehensive response to gun injuries, including improved screening for mental and physical health conditions among not just victims, but their family and friends too. The team says a new approach is beginning to be taught among medical trainees.
“We can’t think about this as a problem that starts and ends with the bullet going in and then the acute surgical care,” study author Chana Sacks told The New York Times.
“Leaving the hospital is just the beginning of that family’s journey, and I think we need to treat it that way.”
Bonus bite: Here’s what an AR-15 does to a human body.
Allowing SNAP Recipients to Purchase Groceries Online Helped Lower the Share of Families Experiencing Food Insufficiency
A new study by researchers at Texas A&M University found the share of low-income U.S. families experiencing food insufficiency (i.e., sometimes or often not having enough food) fell from 24.5% to 22.5% at the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, coinciding with the rapid expansion of a pilot program allowing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to use their benefits to purchase groceries online.
The study found SNAP online grocery purchases soared to $155 million in June 2020, up from less than $3 million in January of that year, after the Online Purchasing Pilot was expanded nationwide in early 2020 to address disruptions in schooling, child care, and transportation caused by the pandemic.
“SNAP is one of the primary tools in the U.S. safety net to address food hardship, and expansion of online benefit redemption has the potential to amplify its impacts across several dimensions,” the authors wrote.
Poverty Among Single Mothers Soared in 2022
A new analysis by Shengwei Sun at the National Women's Law Center found the poverty rate among family units headed by a single woman jumped from 11.9% in 2021 to 26.7% in 2022, fueled by the expiration of vital pandemic-era benefits, including the expanded Child Tax Credits.
Sun analyzed the U.S. Census Bureau’s supplemental poverty measure, which examines the share of the population below the national poverty line and includes paychecks, SNAP benefits, and tax credits.
The analysis found the overall supplemental poverty rate increased from 7.8% to 12.4% from 2021 to 2022, including large increases for women and girls (from 7.9% to 12.8%) and children overall (5.2% to 12.4%).
Narrower Traffic Lanes Can Reduce Collisions
A new report by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found reducing traffic lane width to 9 feet (down from the typical 11- to 12-foot width) can help reduce traffic-related collisions, while also creating more space for other safety features, like bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks.
The researchers analyzed 1,117 streets in seven major U.S. cities, finding crashes don’t increase when comparing 9- and 11-foot lanes, however, crashes do increase (about 1.5 times higher) when comparing 9- and 12-foot lanes.
“Contrary to the current thinking, wider lanes in urban areas can lead to a higher number of crashes and ultimately fatalities,” said lead author Shima Hamidi. “What if we can narrow lanes without sacrificing safety, and how can we best use the additional space in the existing infrastructure? That’s what we want to know.”
OUTSIDE THE LOX
Outside the Lox is a new weekly feature highlighting a fun new research finding.
Cats Use Nearly 300 Facial Expressions to Communicate
A new study by researchers at the University of Kansas found cats use 276 unique facial expressions to communicate with each other, including a range of facial movements that express everything from hostility to friendliness.
The team found each facial expression by cats uses around four out of 26 total facial movements, like parted lips, jaw drops, nose licks, protracted or retracted whiskers, and various ear positions. For comparison, humans have 44 unique facial movements and dogs have 27.
The vast majority of feline facial expressions found in the study were either distinctly friendly (45%) or distinctly aggressive (37%), while the remaining 18% were so ambiguous they fell into each category.
What exactly the cats are “saying” to each other remains a mystery, however, the researchers believe some of their friendly expressions resemble those made by humans, dogs, monkeys, and other animals, indicating cats may have developed their facial expressions by watching others.
85% - The percentage of people in 16 countries set to hold elections next year that worry about the impact of online disinformation on the upcoming elections, according to a new survey by UNESCO. The global opinion survey, which included 8,000 respondents from countries like the U.S., Mexico, and India, is part of UNESCO’s new action plan to regulate social media platforms.
$1.08 trillion - The total credit card debt held by Americans in the third quarter of 2023, according to a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The figure marks a new record high and represents a $48 billion increase from the previous quarter. Credit card balances have spiked $154 billion since the third quarter of 2022, representing the largest year-over-year increase since 1999.
2,200 - The number of earthquakes measured from Wednesday to Friday on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula, according to data compiled by the Icelandic Met Office. The country has declared a state of emergency over potential volcanic eruptions in the area, with the Met Office on Saturday saying there’s a “significant likelihood” of an eruption in the coming days.
Long Video. When did humans embrace clothing and stop being naked? (11 min)
Short Video. Watch the trailer for NASA+, NASA’s new subscription-free streaming service. (1 min)
Fun Video. Check out the first images taken by the European Space Agency’s Euclid telescope. (1 min)
Good Read. Read French love letters confiscated by the British 265 years ago that are being shared for the first time. (1,480 words; 7 min)
Neat List. Check out the winners of The Nature Conservancy’s 2023 Photo Contest.
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Written by Ryan Wittler