Survivors of gunshot wounds in Washington state were at far greater risk of returning to the hospital with ensuing firearm-related injuries, according to a new study by the University of Washington School of Public Health.
The gunshot victims were also at elevated risk for death and for committing future crimes, researchers found. “Some of the numbers are just staggering,” said lead researcher Dr. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health.
More than 32,000 people were killed by firearms in the U.S. in 2013, while firearms-related injuries topped 84,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Rowhani-Rahbar and colleagues from the School of Public Health and UW’s Harborview Injury Prevention Center conducted a statewide study that identified nearly 700 trauma patients who suffered a firearm-related injury in Washington in 2006-2007. Using hospital and arrest records, researchers followed surviving patients for up to six years after the initial hospitalization to look at risks for subsequent violent victimization and crime perpetration.
They compared that group to more than 70,000 patients hospitalized for non-firearm injuries and more than 180,000 hospitalized for reasons other than injuries. They found gunshot survivors were 21 times more likely to be hospitalized for a subsequent gun injury than non-injury patients. By contrast, victims of other assaults (not involving firearms) were only three times more likely to become re-hospitalized for gunshot wounds, Dr. Rowhani-Rahbar said.
The study was published February 23 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In the same issue of the journal, eight national health organizations, including the American Public Health Association, plus the American Bar Association declared gun-related injuries and deaths a “major public health problem” and issued a call to action. The organizations offered nine strategies, including universal background checks, a ban on military assault-style weapons and more federal support for gun-violence research.