Exposure to gun violence may lead to more depression among mothers

Exposure to gun violence may lead to more depression among mothers

New study finds gun violence in communities associated with depression in mothers.

By: Alexandra de Leon Date: February 1st, 2021
female looking down
Courtesy: Eric Ward for Unsplash

Researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center (HIPRC), the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology at the University of Washington, and UW Medicine have conducted a study looking at the relationship between community gun violence and mothers’ risk of depression. The study was published January 13, 2021 in Prevention Science.

Christine Leibbrand, Research Scientist & Training Director at the UW Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology is the lead author on this study.

“We looked at mothers’ exposure to gun violence and examined whether they saw someone get shot at least one or more times in the past year in their communities,” says Leibbrand.

Using Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) data, researchers compared a mothers’ exposure to gun violence with symptoms and diagnoses of depression across 20 U.S. cities.

They found 5.8-7.3% of low-income mothers in urban areas witnessed shootings in their local communities. These mothers were more likely to be a person of color or be socioeconomically disadvantaged.

This study found witnessing a shooting was associated with roughly a 32-58% increase in the probability that mothers had depression.

“Our work highlights the externalities associated with gun violence for community members and points to important socioeconomic and racial disparities in individuals’ exposures to traumatic experiences” says Leibbrand. ”These findings are important for scholars and policymakers. Our work highlights the importance of providing resources for coping with trauma on a wider, community-level basis following gun violence incidents.”

Researchers in this study were a part of HIPRC’s Firearm Injury (FIPRP) & Policy Research Program. The group’s mission is to reduce the impact of firearm injury and death on people’s lives through interdisciplinary research and collaboration with institutional, community, and governmental partners.

Partial funding for this work came from a Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development research infrastructure grant (P2C HD042828), to the Center for Studies in Demography & Ecology at the University of Washington. This research was also supported by a grant from the Washington State legislature to support FIPRP at HIPRC.

Other authors in this study include Frederick Rivara, MD, MPH, Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program (FIPRP) Director and Professor of Pediatrics with the University of Washington School of Medicine and Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, MD, MPH, PhD, FIPRP Co-Director and Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Washington.