MONDAY, Sept. 27, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Exposure to neighborhood gun violence is associated with increased odds of mental health-related pediatric emergency department visits among children living near a shooting, according to a study published online Sept. 20 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Aditi Vasan, M.D., from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues examined the association between neighborhood gun violence and subsequent mental health-related pediatric emergency department use. The analysis included 128,683 emergency department encounters (2014 through 2018) for children aged 0 to 19 years living in 12 ZIP codes in Philadelphia.

The researchers found that a total of 2,629 people were shot in the study area in the timeframe studied, and 54,341 children living nearby had one or more emergency department visits within 60 days of a shooting. Most of these children were Black (84.5 percent) and were insured by Medicaid (78.1 percent). Children residing within one-eighth of a mile (two to three blocks) of a shooting had greater odds of mental health-related emergency department presentations in the subsequent 14 days (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.86), 30 days (aOR ,1.49), and 60 days (aOR, 1.35), when adjusting for age, sex, race and ethnicity, median household income by ZIP code, and insurance.

“Gun violence affects the whole community, beyond the victims who are personally injured,” Vasan said in a statement. “Now that we have confirmed exposure to shootings negatively impacts the mental health of children, we can work to develop ways to provide preventive and responsive support for children and families exposed to neighborhood gun violence.”

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