AJPH May 2016 highlights

Date: May 19 2016

AJPH Research: Firearm ownership and suicides, young people’s views on marijuana, academic dysfunction after concussion

CONTACT: For copies of articles or full table of contents of an issue, contact Mandi Yohn at amanda.yohn@apha.org or 202-777-2509.

American Journal of Public Health highlights:

1. State-level firearm ownership linked to higher firearm-related suicide rates

2. Young people nationwide have more permissive views on marijuana, independent of state laws

3. Academic dysfunction among injured students greatest among those with concussions

State-level firearm ownership linked to higher firearm-related suicide rates

Higher levels of firearm ownership in a state are linked to higher firearm-related suicide rates in both male and females, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers with the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health used data from 1981 to 2013 for all 50 states, which included annual overall and gender-specific suicide and firearm suicide rates and a proxy for state-level household firearm ownership. They investigated the relationship between the firearm ownership level in a state for a given year and the adjusted overall and firearm suicide rate in that state and year.

Results showed a strong relationship between higher levels of firearm ownership in a state and higher firearm-related suicide rates for both males and females. Among males, there was also a significant association between higher firearm ownership and higher overall suicide rates by any means. These findings imply that policies that reduce firearm ownership could likely reduce firearm-related suicides in both genders.

“Approximately 40,000 people die as a result of suicide each year in the United States, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the nation and costing approximately $44 billion per year,” the authors explain. “The public health implication of these findings is that reductions in the prevalence of firearms may be an effective strategy for reducing firearm-related suicides for both genders, and for reducing overall suicide rates in men. “

[“Firearm Ownership and Suicide Rates Among US Men and Women, 1981–2013.” Contact: Michael Siegel, MD, MPH, Office of Policy, Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.]

 Young people nationwide have more permissive views on marijuana, independent of state laws

According to new research in the American Journal of Public Health, young people have more permissive views on marijuana, independent of whether or not they live in a state with medical marijuana laws.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed 10 annual waves of the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2004–2013, nationally and for states with marijuana laws. At the outset, in 2004, 10 U.S. states had enacted medical marijuana laws, and by the study’s end, in 2013, 21 states plus the District of Columbia had done so. Researchers examined survey responses from more than 450,000 individuals ranging in age from 12-25 years and measured attitudes on marijuana’s riskiness, accessibility and social acceptability.

Results showed that state medical marijuana laws are associated with more permissive attitudes about marijuana among young people living in those states. However, after adjusting for state-level differences, these associations were nullified. By contrast, there was a consistent and significant national trend over time toward more permissive attitudes about marijuana among young people in all states.

“We did not find evidence that in passing medical marijuana laws state policymakers are directly affecting the views of young people living within their states, but we did observe a national trend toward young people adopting more permissive views about marijuana that is occurring independently of any effects within states,” the authors explain. “As societal attitudes toward marijuana grow more permissive, future studies should seek to better understand how state-level policy debates are reverberating nationally and potentially reshaping the views of young people across the developmental spectrum.”

[“Young People’s More Permissive Views About Marijuana: Local Impact of State Laws or National Trend?” Contact: Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.]

Academic dysfunction among injured students greatest among those with concussions 

According to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health, students with concussions show more academic dysfunction — or inability to perform at a normal academic level — one week after injury than students who experience extremity injuries.

Researchers from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry conducted a study from September 2013 through January 2015 of high school and college students who had visited three emergency departments in the Rochester, New York, area for a sports-related concussion or musculoskeletal extremity injury. Using telephone surveys, the researchers compared self-reported academic dysfunction between students with concussions and a comparison group of students with extremity injuries at 1 week and 1 month after injury.

Results showed that students with concussions had more academic dysfunction one week after injury than students who experience extremity injuries. Students with a concussion took longer to return to school post-injury and received more academic adjustments — such as extra time on tests and tutoring. The results also showed that female students and students with a history of two or more previous concussions were more susceptible to the effects of concussion. At one-month after injury, however, there were no observed differences between students with concussions and those with extremity injuries.

“Concussed students typically return to school within a week after injury, while their brains are likely still recovering,” the authors explain. “Our results emphasize the need for return-to-learn guidelines and academic adjustments based on gender and concussion history.”

[“Academic Dysfunction After a Concussion Among US High School and College Students,” Contact: Erin B. Wasserman, PhD, Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.]

Find a full list of research papers published online on May 19, 2016, at 4 p.m. EDT below:

  • Hepatitis C Screening of the “Birth Cohort” (Born 1945–1965) and Younger Inmates of New York City Jails
  • Calorie Underestimation When Buying High-Calorie Beverages in Fast-Food Contexts
  • Challenges in Identifying Refugees in National Health Data Sets
  • Mobilizing Local Authorities Around Public Health Priorities
  • Formative Work and Community Engagement Approaches for Implementing an HIV Intervention in Botswana Schools
  • Health Care Visits as a Risk Factor for Tuberculosis in Taiwan: A Population-Based Case–Control Study
  • Young People’s More Permissive Views About Marijuana: Local Impact of State Laws or National Trend?
  • Suicide Rates in Aboriginal Communities in Labrador, Canada
  • Academic Dysfunction After a Concussion Among US High School and College Students
  • Effect of the Affordable Care Act on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Insurance Coverage
  • Access and Quality of Care by Insurance Type for Low-Income Adults Before the Affordable Care Act
  • Pediatric Care Provider Density and Personal Belief Exemptions From Vaccine Requirements in California Kindergartens
  • Firearm Ownership and Suicide Rates Among US Men and Women, 1981–2013
  • Impact of Food Assistance Programs on Obesity in Mothers and Children: A Prospective Cohort Study in Peru
  • Population Survey Features and Response Rates: A Randomized Experiment

The articles above will be published online May 19, 2016, at 4 p.m. EDT by the American Journal of Public Health under “First Look.” “First Look” articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. The American Journal of Public Health is published by the American Public Health Association, and is available at www.ajph.org.

Complimentary online access to the Journal is available to credentialed members of the media. Address inquiries to Mandi Yohn at APHA, 202-777-2509, or email her. A single print issue of the Journal is available for $35 from the Journal’s Subscriptions department. If you are not a member of the press, a member of APHA or a subscriber, online single issue access is $30 and online single article access is $22 at www.ajph.org or for direct customer service, call 202-777-2516, or email.

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The American Journal of Public Health is the monthly journal of the American Public Health Association. APHA champions the health of all people and all communities by strengthening the profession of public health, sharing the latest research and information, promoting best practices and advocating for public health issue and policies grounded in research. More information is available at www.apha.org.