Young adult men – primarily of minority racial and ethnic groups – in parts of major US cities faced a far greater risk of firearm-related deaths and injuries than soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan wars, a new study revealed.
According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, young adult males from zip codes with the most violence in Chicago and Philadelphia had a notably higher risk of firearm-related death than U.S. military personnel who served during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Brandon del Pozo, one of the researchers behind the project, wrote about the study on Twitter. According to del Pozo, “Military-aged males living in Chicago’s most dangerous zip code faced a risk of firearm-related death over 3x the risk of combat death in Afghanistan, and nearly 4x the risks of Iraq. The death risks were also greater than combat for the 10% most violent zip codes in the city.”
The study consisted of 129,826 young adult men living in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, and Los Angeles in 2020 and 2021. Within that timeframe, there were 470 homicides and 1684 firearm-related injuries, according to the study. Researchers compared those numbers to data from 2001 to 2014 for the war in Afghanistan and 2003 to 2009 for the war in Iraq – both of which were active combat periods.
The findings suggest that urban health strategies should prioritize violence reduction. According to the study, in 2020, US cities experienced a 30 percent annual increase in homicides, with “firearms becoming the leading cause of death for children, adolescents, and young adults for the first time.” People living in the areas studied are exposed to highly elevated risks of violence each year they continue to live in these communities. Their continued exposure to violent death and injury in these communities provides no post-traumatic period for residents and the ongoing risks of violence and trauma accumulate over time.
Researchers from the study said combat exposure is associated with stress-inducing hyper vigilance, which is linked to problems like homelessness, alcohol use, mental illness, and substance use.
“The findings likewise suggest that urban health strategies should prioritize violence reduction and take a trauma-informed approach at the relevant touchpoints,” the researchers wrote.
While the study did prove areas of Chicago and Philadelphia to be deadlier than recent wars, researchers found that firearm mortality and injury risks were much lower in New York and Los Angeles than in Chicago and Philadelphia. They also found that the risks faced by firearms violence in these cities were much lower than those faced by soldiers during war.
Researchers believe this study will help to identify what differentiates US cities in terms of their risk from firearms violence.