Exposure to Gun Violence Associated With Increased Rates of Disability Among Black Americans

A new study from researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey has discovered a link between exposure to gun violence and increased rates of disability among Black Americans.

Using a nationally representative sample, the authors surveyed 3,015 Black Americans linked to various types of both mental and physical disabilities. The survey asked the participants about their experiences with four different scenarios of gun violence: being shot, being threatened with a firearm, knowing a gun violence victim, and directly witnessing a shooting and/or hearing one nearby.

The survey results showed that over 40 percent of participants knew a victim of gun violence, and 12 percent reported experiencing three out of the four prompted shooting scenarios. Black men and women showed different exposure rates, with 30 percent of Black men reporting previously being directly threatened, compared to 15 percent of Black women. Black men were also twice as likely to be shot as Black women.

These elevated rates of gun violence exposure among Black Americans were found to be associated with higher rates of disability in both men and women. Black men who either witnessed or heard a shooting reported greater rates of suffering from their disabilities compared to men without similar exposure, and were more likely to report cognitive and physical challenges. Black women who were directly threatened with a firearm were 48 percentage points more likely to experience a functional disability compared to women who had never been threatened, and significantly more likely to report cognitive challenges, such as difficulty concentrating.

As the majority of historical research on gun violence has centered around reducing firearm-related deaths, the authors suggest their findings point towards a need to further study the effects of gun violence on mental and physical health. They believe future research should include improving access to resources that help manage the trauma that gun violence creates.

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