Incidence of gun-related hospitalizations ‘correlates with stock market performance’

19 Apr

A new study published in The American Journal of Medicine suggests that the national incidence of gun-related hospitalizations has mirrored the performance of the national stock market. The study suggests, therefore, that economic insecurities may drive firearm-related injuries.

gun and dollar bills
About 88 people die every day in the US from firearm-related suicides, homicides and accidents.

About 88 people die every day in the US from a combination of firearm-related suicides, homicides, unintentional injuries and accidents, making guns the second leading cause of injury-related death in the nation after road accidents.

“Although there is a large amount of literature detailing the vital statistics relating to firearm injuries, there is a conspicuous paucity of literature exploring burden on health care resources imposed by firearm injuries,” says author Dr. Shikhar Agarwal, of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, OH.

“One could surmise that there would be a relationship between the national economic situation and national firearm-related hospitalization rates,” Dr. Agarwal adds.

Analyzing data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) database, Dr. Agarwal found 70,974 firearm-related hospitalizations during the period 2001-11. There was a modest increase in these hospitalizations during 2002 and 2004, followed by a slow decline until 2008, sharp increases in 2009 and 2010, and then a sharp decline in 2011.

About 8% of these injuries were fatal, which remained consistent across the study period. Suicide accounted for 30% of these fatal gun-related injuries. The study also found that the prevalence of mental health disorders among patients admitted to hospital with gun-related injuries has increased.

Comparing the NIS data with the Dow Jones Industrial Average – an overall indicator of the nation’s economic health – Dr. Agarwal concluded that “the national incidence of firearm-related hospitalizations in the US has closely tracked the national stock market performance, suggesting that economic perturbations may be a ‘root cause’ or at least an important predictor of firearm injuries.”

Looking more closely at the period 2007-11, Dr. Agarwal observed a “small but significant” drop in the numbers of patients discharged to home, compared with 2001-06. During this period, the average length of stay following a gun-related injury also increased from 6.6 days to 7.4 days.

The average hospitalization cost associated with a firearm-related injury also increased from $20,686 during 2001-06 to $25,155 in 2007-11, the study reports.

1 in 10 adults have both access to firearms and a history of angry and impulsive behavior

Earlier this month, Medical News Today reported on a study co-authored by researchers from Duke, Harvard and Columbia universities that found nearly 1 in 10 adults have both access to firearms and a history of impulsivity and anger.

In addition, that study found that fewer than 1 in 10 of the anger-prone people with access to firearms had been hospitalized with a psychiatric or substance abuse problem, which means that most of these anger-prone people would be free to legally purchase firearms.

In February, a paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine called for the introduction of new policies to reduce the number of gun-related injuries and deaths in the US.

Recommendations made in the paper included compulsory criminal background checks for all firearm purchases, prohibition from public sale of military-style “assault-style” weapons, and freedom of speech for physicians to discuss gun ownership with patients.