NEWS | June 18, 2018

Survivors of gun crimes pay emotional cost


Victims of crimes committed with firearms suffer greater distress compared to victims of crimes involving other weapons or no weapons at all. As such, persons victimized with a firearm may require special attention with regard to their emotional well-being.

 Findings from a brief research report  by researchers at the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Firearms were involved in over 250,000 victimizations in 2015. Firearm violence has been understudied, and as a result, the consequences of firearm violence are only partially understood. In particular, the mental health consequences specific to the presence of a firearm during a violent victimization are not known.

UC Davis researchers used data from the National Crime Victimization Survey to assess the relationship between firearm involvement during a violent victimization and the prevalence of severe distress and social functioning problems attributed to that victimization.

Survey participants had experienced a violent crime within the previous 6 months and were asked to detail the physical and emotional consequences of their victimizations. Using this information, researchers compared the prevalence of severe distress attributed to the victimization and problems in respondents’ social life, including their job, their schoolwork, and interactions with family or friends by whether the victimization involved a firearm, a different weapon, such as a knife, or no weapon.

The researchers found that a greater proportion of people reported experiencing severe distress as a result of the victimization when the victimization involved a firearm (39 percent), as compared to people victimized with different weapons (31 percent) and no weapons (24 percent). Differences in the prevalence of reported social life problems were smaller and not statistically significant.

These findings suggest firearm violence has unique negative impacts on mental health and people victimized with a firearm may require special attention. These findings also highlight the emotional costs that could be avoided by investing in efforts to prevent firearm violence. 

The UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program is a multi-disciplinary program of research and policy development. Established 30 years ago, the program helped develop what has come to be known as the public health approach to firearm violence, an approach that is applied to everything program researchers do.