Child Survivors of Gun Violence More Likely to Experience Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues


For over 60 years, car accidents were the leading cause of death in children and teens in the United States. After the start of the pandemic in 2020, though, their number one cause of death became gun violence — and it’s remained in the top spot ever since.

In 2022, more than 4,500 youths in the United States died of firearm injuries. Thousands more survive being shot each year, experiencing lasting physical harm as well as psychological repercussions — for themselves, their parents, and their siblings — that can linger for years or even decades, according to the findings of a new study published in the November issue of Health Affairs.

The tragedy of youth gun violence in its immediate aftermath overshadows the massive health crises that occur in the long wake of injuries and deaths, says Zirui Song, MD, PhD, an author of the study and an associate professor of healthcare policy and medicine in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“Survivors of firearm injury are often forgotten, as are family members who share in the trauma. Family members are survivors too, confronted with their own mental health and healthcare consequences despite not being shot themselves.” he says.


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