Study finds pediatric firearm injuries differ in urban and rural settings

Researchers recently determined a number of demographics affect pediatric firearm injuries, including whether the child lives in an urban or rural setting.

An abstract of the study, “Hospitalizations for Firearm Injuries in Children and Adolescents in the US: Rural Versus Urban,” was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in Chicago Monday. The study is the first of its kind in that it explores urban versus rural settings as it relates to firearm injuries in children.

“Compared with other causes of death in the United States, there is a relative scarcity of research on understanding the epidemiology of firearm injuries, and this is particularly true for the pediatric population,” said lead author Bradley Herrin, MD, a pediatrician at the Yale School of Medicine. “This study helps to build our understanding of the problem by providing more detailed data on hospitalizations for firearm injuries in different pediatric age groups in both urban and rural communities.”

The study, which was published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that while teens in urban settings are more likely to suffer firearm injuries as the result of assault or other crimes, younger children in rural settings are more likely to suffer accidental gunshot wounds.

Researchers analyzed a total of 21,843 hospitalizations due to firearms injuries from 2006, 2009, and 2012. All of the patients were 20 years and younger, and researchers looked at the overall demographics, including the location and cause of injury, i.e., assault, attempted suicide, accidental, and undetermined, as well as age, social class, and race.

More specifically, the study determined that the majority of firearm injuries in pediatrics that resulted in hospitalization occur among teens 15 to 19 years old living in urban areas. However, the number of hospitalizations among children ages five to 14 was significantly higher in rural areas. For children ages 14 and under, accidental shootings were the most common cause of firearm injuries in both urban and rural settings, while those 15 to 19 years old living in urban areas more often experienced assaults that resulted in firearm injuries. Likewise, researchers found that the rate of suicide attempts among older teens was higher in rural settings rather than urban environments.

Researchers also pointed out that firearm injuries are the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the United States, with non-white males living in low median income homes being the most at risk for both fatal and non-fatal injuries.