The COVID-19 pandemic is associated with an increase in the frequency and mortality of pediatric gun injuries, a new study shows.
Previous studies have examined the link between the pandemic and increased firearm injuries among adults, but few studies have evaluated the impact on children.
For the new study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, researchers retrospectively reviewed pediatric firearm injuries before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic from March 2015 to February 2020 and compared the data to injuries that happened during the pandemic from March 2020 through March 2022.
“We found a significant increase in pediatric firearm injury rates during the pandemic compared to the five preceding years,” says lead author Mary Bernardin, assistant professor of clinical emergency medicine and pediatric emergency medicine at the University of Missouri.
“The escalation in injuries was driven by a significant increase in firearm assaults and homicides as well as increased frequency of innocent children injured as bystanders amidst adult crime.”
Bernardin’s team reviewed 672 pediatric firearm injuries during the study timeframe, including 413 pre-COVID-19 and 259 during the pandemic. The monthly injury rate increased by 51.5% during the pandemic from an average of 6.8 shootings per month prior to the pandemic to 10.3 shootings per month during the pandemic.
Pediatric firearm deaths also increased 29% during the pandemic.
“While Black children were the most frequently victimized both prior to and during the pandemic, there was a significant increase in black victims during the pandemic relative to other races,” Bernadin says. “The proportion of victims having Medicaid or self-pay insurance status also significantly increased during the pandemic.”
Another interesting finding revealed three spikes in monthly pediatric firearm assault/homicide rates occurred during the pandemic, each happening within three months of a surge in COVID-19 deaths, Bernadin says.
“This trend is particularly noteworthy because as surges from future COVID-19 variants are likely to occur, one may infer that these surges may be related to future spikes in firearm injuries,” Bernardin says. “This threat highlights the need for increased violence-intervention services, particularly amongst marginalized communities more likely to be seriously affected by firearm violence.”
Additional coauthors are from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine.
The research did not receive any specific grants from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors. The authors disclose no conflicts of interest.
Source: University of Missouri