Younger, minority Americans are most often affected, research shows

September 19, 2017

TUESDAY, Sept. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Besides the toll in deaths and disability, hospitalizations linked to gun injuries cost U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year, a new study finds.

A University of Iowa analysis of nationwide data on hospital admissions between 2003 and 2013 identified 336,785 for gun injuries. That's more than 30,000 a year, on average.

More than 60 percent of gun injuries resulted from assaults, according to the study. Of those, 70 percent were caused by handguns. In all, 23 percent of gun injuries were accidental and 9 percent were self-inflicted.

Hospitalization costs for gun injuries during the study period topped $622 million a year.

While that's less than 1 percent of the $377 billion spent each year for hospital stays, gun injuries are often more costly to treat, researchers said.

Average cost of a typical hospital stay was $10,400, compared with $17,000 to $33,400 for a gun injury. Injuries from assault weapons were most costly to treat, at more than $32,000 each.

The burden fell heavily on taxpayers and the health care system. The study found 57 percent of gun injury hospitalization costs (more than $205 million) were either paid by Medicaid or not paid at all ($155 million).

"Efforts to prevent these injuries, particularly assaults and injuries caused by handguns, could reduce this cost burden," lead author Corinne Peek-Asa said in a university news release. She is a professor of environmental and occupational health.

The study also found that more than 80 percent of patients hospitalized for gun injuries were between 15 and 44 years old. The highest rate was among 15- to 24-year-olds (28.9 per 100,000). The rate for males was 18.2 per 100,000, compared with 2.1 per 100,000 for females.

The injury rate for blacks was 39.7 per 100,000, compared to 4.4 for whites and 21.1 per 100,000 for other groups.

The study was published recently in the journal Injury Epidemiology.

More information

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has more on gun violence.

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