Hospitalization costs for nonfatal gunshot wounds in the United States totaled $9 billion between 1998 and 2011, a new study reveals.
That’s $679 million a year just for inpatient care, the researchers said. Not included were doctor fees, lost productivity, expenses borne by families and society, or fees for gunshot victims who do not go to a hospital, according to the report published in a recent issue of Family Medicine and Community Health.
“While most of the media and public focus has understandably been on fatalities, less attention has thus far been paid to the economic burdens and costs to the health care system associated with nonfatal firearm-related injuries,” researchers led by Jason Salemi, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said in a journal news release.
Their analysis of trends, prevalence and health care costs associated with gunshot injury-related hospitalizations also found the following:
- The average hospital stay for a gunshot wound victim was nearly seven days at an average cost of $22,000.
- About 60 percent of gunshot injuries occurred during assaults, 23 percent were accidental, 8 percent were self-inflicted and 2 percent were associated with police.
- Accidental injuries were particularly common among children younger than 14 (nearly 50 percent), whites (34 percent) and people in rural areas (48 percent).
- Handguns caused more than three-quarters of the injuries, shotguns accounted for nearly 18 percent and hunting rifles more than 5 percent.
- Twice as many gunshot injuries occurred in cities as in rural areas, and the highest risk of hospitalization for a gunshot wound was in the West.
- Gunshot injuries were most common among older teens and young adults aged 18 to 24, poor people, and black and Hispanic males in cities.
Each year, tens of thousands of Americans are killed or injured by guns. In 2013 alone, more than 32,000 people were killed by guns. In 2009, there were an estimated 310 million guns in the United States — not including military-owned weapons — which works out to more than one gun for every citizen, according to the researchers.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence offers gun violence statistics.