Survival Less Likely for Black Victims of Assault, Study Finds

Racial disparities seen in death rates for trauma center patients with gun, knife, blunt injuries

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Black Americans are more likely than whites to die of gunshot and other assault-related injuries after they arrive at a trauma center, a new study has found.

Researchers analyzed data from 137,618 black and white assault victims aged 15 and older who were treated at 100 trauma centers from 2005 to 2008, and found that the overall death rate was higher for blacks (8.9 percent) than for whites (5.1 percent).

Compared to white patients, the risk of death for black patients was 61 percent higher for those with blunt injuries, 36 percent higher for those with cutting/piercing injuries and 29 percent higher for those with gunshot injuries, the investigators found

Uninsured black patients accounted for 76 percent of all excess trauma center deaths from assault, according to the study published in a recent issue of the Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection and Critical Care.

The findings are consistent with previous findings, but it's difficult to identify the causes of these racial disparities, said study author Anthony R. Harris, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

"The observed disparities raise questions about the social causes of the very large black/white difference in overall U.S. homicide victimization rates (about seven to one) and have important implications for individual lives, including whether or not a victim remains a victim in an assault case or becomes a victim in a homicide case," Harris said in a university news release.

"The victim's outcome is, in turn, likely to impact the chances the offender will be apprehended and, if so, faced with a charge of aggravated assault or of homicide. Unlike other medical outcomes, in the case of intentional assault, insurance and racial disparities in hospital mortality are thus likely to affect no less than two separate parties, and, often, two or more unrelated families," Harris added.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers an overview of violence prevention.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: University of Massachusetts Amherst, news release, Oct. 6, 2011

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