PAS 2019—Adolescent mental health suffers if guns are accessible


  • Emily Willingham, PhD
  • Conference Reports
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Takeaway

  • Adolescent mental health suffers when young people have access to guns, adding to risk for depression and suicidal ideation and to the perception that school is unsafe.
  • Attending a school where access to guns was common, however, was tied to reduced odds of viewing school as unsafe.

Why this matters

  • The authors say that the findings show that gun access is a “complex social phenomenon.”
  • Gun access in an environment of low gun availability may signal a high-risk mental and physical state.
  • Study author: "For better or for worse, guns are an important part of American culture."

Key results

  • Having personal access to a gun was tied to increased odds (ORs) for:
    • Depression: 1.21 (P=.03);
    • Suicidal ideation: 1.74 (P<.001 and>
    • Perceiving school as unsafe: 1.60 (P<.001>
  • Attending a school where gun access was common unexpectedly was associated with reduced odds of viewing school as unsafe: OR, 0.83 (P=.003).

Study design

  • Data from National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) Wave I youth surveys.

Limitations

  • Findings are non-peer-reviewed results presented at a conference.
  • Confounding possible.

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