TUESDAY, March 21, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital care for gunshot wounds cost the United States about $6.6 billion over a nine-year period, and total costs are likely much higher, researchers report.
"There is a high cost for these injuries, especially because they are preventable," study author Sarabeth Spitzer, a medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
Information for the study came from more than 267,000 patients hospitalized for gunshot wounds from 2006 through 2014. The investigators found that the cost of those admissions averaged $735 million per year.
The study included gunshot injuries that were self-inflicted, accidental or due to an assault.
The researchers said the nearly $7 billion total over the nine-year study period is only a fraction of the total hospital costs for treating gunshot wounds. That's because the study focused on initial hospitalizations and didn't include patients who were treated and released, were treated and died, or patients who were readmitted to the hospital.
Despite the fact that it's a major issue in the United States, there's little research on gun violence from a public health perspective. Part of the reason is a measure Congress passed in 1996 that restricts federal funding for firearms research, Spitzer said.
"Firearm injuries are tied to one of the most controversial political issues in the country, so it is important for all sides to have access to fact-based research," she said. "Cost information can be especially helpful when making health policy decisions."
The study also found that about 40 percent of the total health cost of gunshot wounds comes out of government coffers.
"It's a very high financial burden," Spitzer said.
The findings were published online March 21 in the American Journal of Public Health.
The U.S. Office of Justice Programs has more on firearms and crime statistics.