Impact of firearm injury in children and adolescents on health care costs and use within a family

Lianlian Lei, Jason E. Goldstick, Donovan T. Maust


In 2020, firearm injury became the leading cause of death in U.S. children and adolescents. This study examines sequelae of firearm injury among children and adolescents in terms of health care costs and use within a family over time using an event study design. Using data from a large U.S. commercial insurance company from 2013 to 2019, we identified 532 children and adolescents aged 1–19 years who experienced any firearm-related acute hospitalization or emergency department (ED) encounter and 1667 of their family members (833 parents and 834 siblings). Outcomes included total health care costs, any acute hospitalization and ED visits (yes/no), and number of outpatient management visits, each determined on a quarterly basis 2 years before and 3 years after the firearm injury. Among injured children and adolescents, during the first quarter after the firearm injury, quarterly total health care costs were $24,018 higher than pre-injury; probability of acute hospitalization and ED visits were 27.9% and 90.4% higher, respectively; and number of outpatient visits was 1.8 higher (p < .001 for all). Quarterly total costs continued to be elevated during the second quarter post-injury ($1878 higher than pre-injury, p < .01) and number of outpatient visits remained elevated throughout the first year post-injury (0.6, 0.4, and 0.3 higher in the second through fourth quarter, respectively; p < .05 for all). Parents’ number of outpatient visits increased during the second and third years after the firearm injury (0.3 and 0.5 higher per quarter than pre-injury; p < .05). Youth firearm injury has long-lasting impact on health care within a family.

Keywords: Gun violence, Firearm injury, Health care costs and use, Children and adolescents, Dynamic impact, United States