Gun Violence Victims Face Increased Risk of Unemployment, PTSD, Substance Abuse: Study

A new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that young people who had experienced gun violence had increased risks of post-traumatic stress disorder, unemployment and substance abuse.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed medical journal JAMA Surgery, looked at 183 young adult patients with a median age of 27. All of them were survivors of gunshot wounds. The findings included:

  • 48.6% of patients had positive findings for probable PTSD
  • Unemployment in survivors increased by 14.3%
  • Substance abuse of alcohol or drugs increased by 13.2%

The researchers concluded that “survivors of gunshot wounds may benefit from early identification and the initiation of long-term, multidisciplinary longitudinal care to improve recovery.”

In order to conduct the study, the authors tracked down and surveyed 183 gunshot wound survivors who had been brought to the university’s trauma center in Philadelphia. Of those surveyed, 91.8% were Black and 92.3% were male.

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“When it comes to guns, we as a society and as researchers pay a lot of attention to deaths,” Michael Vella, lead author on the study, told the Washington Post. “That’s what the public outrage often focuses on. But what’s not captured are the people who survive. What we found is these patients are facing long-term physical and mental health problems that just don’t go away over time.”

The researchers told the Post that the next step of their study would be to develop better mechanisms to intervene in the lives of gun violence survivors and help them deal with PTSD and other mental and emotional issues that could lead to unemployment and substance abuse.

“These are patients we are routinely discharging from the emergency room and sending out into the world often with no follow-up or assessment of the long-term mental injuries they may be facing in the months that follow,” Vella said.


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