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Study: Violence against teens can be compared to a “chronic disease”

Nov 9, 2014

A new University of Michigan study says we should rethink how we care for teens and young adults who are victims of violence.

The study was based at Hurley Medical Center in Flint.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

For some young people, violent injuries occur with a frequency similar to someone with a “chronic disease”. 

U of M researchers followed nearly 600 people, 14 to 24 years old, in Flint who ended up in an emergency room after a violent assault. Nearly 59% of the participants were male, and just over 58% were African American. This group ended up being twice as likely as their peers to return to the E.R. with another, often more serious, injury from a violent assault.

Rebecca Cunningham is the director of the U of M Injury Center. She says young victims of violence should be treated like domestic violence and child abuse victims when they show up in the ER.

“For this population, we don’t have a standard of care that helps interrupt this cycle of violence,” says Cunningham. “We need to start having an approach where we use the emergency department as an opportunity to interact with these youth and get them the services they need.” 

According to the study, non-fatal assault-related injuries lead to more than 700,000 emergency visits each year by youth between the ages of 10 and 24. Fatal youth violence injuries cost society more than $4 billion a year in medical expenses and $32 billion in lost wages and productivity.

The U of M study appears in the online journal JAMA Pediatrics.