FRIDAY, Dec. 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Firearm injury is a major health crisis in the United States and new research sheds more light on how many of those who are injured survive and the circumstances of their shootings.
For the study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University analyzed nationwide data from death certificates and emergency room visits.
Between 2009 and 2017, the United States recorded an average of nearly 85,700 ER visits a year for nonfatal firearm injuries and an annual average of more 34,500 deaths.
Overall, that added up to an annual average of just over 120,200 firearm injuries -- or 329 per day.
The researchers divided injuries and deaths into five categories: unintentional, self-harm, assault, legal intervention, or of undetermined intent.
Intent had a dramatic impact on the likelihood of survival, researchers found.
Roughly 9 out of 10 self-harm injuries ended in death -- more than 21,100 per year. About 25% of those injured in assaults or in legal intervention, such as police-involved shootings, died. About 1% of those injured in accidents died, the study revealed.
Overall, assaults accounted for about 39% of all firearm injuries. Unintentional injuries accounted for 37%.
Study author Dr. Kit Delgado, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania, said the findings fill some "major" gaps knowledge about U.S. firearm injury.
"By combining fatal and nonfatal injury data, we can identify major differences in injury rates by mechanism and age group and geography," he said in a UPenn news release. "For example, assaults among 15- to 34-year-olds account for the highest injury rates in urban areas, whereas unintentional injuries in this age group account for the highest rate of injury in rural areas."
Better understanding of the nuances can lead to better strategies for gun violence prevention and treatment, the researchers said.
Strategies such as child access prevention laws and gun lock distribution have the potential to prevent many of these injuries, they pointed out, but their true impact will remain unknown if only deaths are counted.
"Research has shown that suicide is the most common form of firearm deaths, and suicide prevention is of preeminent importance. But looking at these numbers of nonfatal injuries can raise concern in other areas needing their own forms of prevention," said lead author Dr. Elinore Kaufman, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. "After two decades of progress, rates of firearm injuries are now increasing, and effective prevention strategies are urgently needed."
Researchers said further study is planned, including a look at implementing programs to nudge parents to store firearms safely and a comparison of prevention strategies in U.S. counties where firearm death rates have risen.
The findings were published Dec. 7 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The National Safety Council offers additional information on gun injuries.
SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania Medicine, news release, Dec. 7, 2020