A new study found that young men living in some U.S. cities are more at risk of firearm death than American military personnel who served in Afghanistan and Iraq during active periods of war.
The study by researchers at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania looked at the risk of being killed by a firearm in the most violent areas in four major U.S. cities: Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles.
Research published in JAMA Network found that young men from zip codes with the most firearm violence in Chicago and Philadelphia faced a significantly higher risk of firearm-related death than U.S. military personnel deployed in two wars.
However, the most violent areas in New York and Los Angeles were much less risky for young men than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The study also revealed that in all areas examined, men from minority racial and ethnic groups overwhelmingly bore the risks. For example, Black and Hispanic males represented 96.2% of those who were fatally shot.
“These results are an urgent wake-up call for understanding, appreciating and responding to the risks and attendant traumas faced by this demographic of young men,” said Brandon del Pozo, an assistant professor of medicine (research) at Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School and an assistant professor of health services, policy and practice (research) at the University’s School of Public Health.
The analysis included 129,826 men aged 18 to 29 residing in the four cities considered in the study. In Chicago’s most violent areas, studied individuals had 3.23 times higher average risk of firearm-related homicide, and those in Philadelphia were at risk 1.9 times more than the average.
The most violent zip codes of Los Angeles and New York, where young men faced a 70% to 91% lower risk than soldiers in the Afghanistan war across fatal and nonfatal categories.
The researchers say that ongoing exposure to such violent events and their risks notably contributes to other health problems.
For example, combat experience has been associated with stress-inducing hypervigilance and higher rates of mental illness, substance use, alcoholism, and homelessness.
However, Del Pozo says that people in cities face “battles” every day for longer periods than those who were deployed in wars temporarily.
Another study published this week found homicide is the leading cause of children and teenagers deaths in the U.S. As most deaths of teenagers aged 11 to 17 were caused by crime and arguments, the research authors urged to address firearm violence, among other factors.