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American gun violence has immense costs beyond the death toll, new studies find

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For decades Republican blocked any government-funded study of the social effects of firearms in the US, presumably because they strongly suspected what such studies would reveal and, in their typical bad-faith attitude, they were determined to prevent the public from knowing what was happening.[

The ukase against studies was recently lifted, and we are now getting an idea of the true toll exacted by widely available firearms. Eric Westervelt reports for NPR:

On one level, it’s almost impossible to put a dollar figure on lives shattered by gun violence or to try to measure the pain of having a loved one killed or seriously injured.

But researchers of two new studies using federal health care and hospital data underscore that the repercussions from firearm deaths and injuries are deeper, wider and far costlier than previously known.

In a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. Zirui Song and colleagues found a four-fold increase in health care spending as a direct result of a non-fatal firearm injury.

Dr. Song, an Associate Professor of Health Care Policy and Medicine at Harvard Medical School, also charts a substantial increase in other health disorders that undermine a person’s health and well-being.

“In the first year after a non-fatal firearm injury, survivors experienced a 40% increase in physical pain or other forms of pain syndromes; a 50% increase in psychiatric disorders; and an 85% increase in substance use disorders,” Dr. Song says, while on break from his rounds at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he practices internal medicine. He adds more research is needed as to exactly why those addiction numbers and other disorders go up so dramatically.

“These results are disturbing and we, as a research team, found them quite striking, as well,” he says. “The ripple effects are quite profound and meaningful for both survivors and family members and, I would argue, clinically and economically substantial.”

And those effects aren’t just on those injured by bullets. The study shows family members of survivors, too, can carry massive physical and mental burdens.

“Family members on average, including parents, siblings and children, experienced a 12% increase in psychiatric disorders,” he says.

The study is based largely on healthcare claims data, not hospital survey or discharge data. Dr. Song says that allows for a more detailed look at spending than previous studies based on other types of data.

“There is really an undercurrent of forgotten survivors whose own health and economic conditions are affected quite profoundly, even though they were lucky enough to survive,” he tells NPR.

And the financial burden for this fallout is mostly landing on the shoulders of taxpayers and employees: Dr. Song’s study shows 96% of the increase in health care spending on firearm injuries is shouldered by Medicare and U.S. employers.

“In direct costs alone, it’s $2.5 billion in healthcare spending in the first year after non-fatal firearm injuries,” he says. “This number is much larger if you include indirect costs of lost wages or productivity.”

A study out this week by Everytown for Gun Safety delves into that larger picture and looks at a wide range of direct and indirect costs from all gun violence in America, fatal as well as gun injuries.

“This epidemic is costing our nation $557 billion annually,” says Sarah Burd-Sharps, research director at the gun control advocacy group. “Looking at . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2022 at 10:59 am

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