STUDY: Young adults in Chicago and Philadelphia now at higher risk of death from gun violence than US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in battle

Military-aged men living in "Chicago's most dangerous zip code faced a risk of firearm-related death over 3x the risk of combat death in Afghanistan, and nearly 4x the risks of Iraq."

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
A new study has found that military-aged males living in Chicago and Philadelphia are more likely to be shot dead than those deployed to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a study published by the JAMA Network, researchers at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania found that young, military-aged males from "zip codes with the most violence in Chicago and Philadelphia had a notably higher risk of firearm-related death than US military personnel who served during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

While Chicago and Philadelphia were discovered to be areas where young males are more likely to be shot dead, researchers found during the study of 129,826 young adult men living in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, and Los Angeles in 2020 and 2021 that "The most violent areas in New York City and Los Angeles were associated with less risk for young adult males than these theaters of war."

The study noted that in all zip codes looked at, the "risks were overwhelmingly borne by young adult males from minoritized racial and ethnic groups."

One of the researchers, Brandon del Pozo, PhD, MPA, MA, outlined key findings in a Twitter thread on Thursday, noting that military-aged men living in "Chicago's most dangerous zip code faced a risk of firearm-related death over 3x the risk of combat death in Afghanistan, and nearly 4x the risks of Iraq. The death risks were also greater than combat for the 10% most violent zip codes in the city."

He stated that "Chicago's firearm violence led residents to call it 'Chiraq.'"

In the Philadelphia, del Pozo noted that "military-aged males living in the city's top 10% most violent zip codes also faced a risk of fatal firearm violence the same or greater than the risks faced by soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan; in some places, the death risk was almost double that of war."

He stated that "the results not only held vs. the average risks faced by soldiers deployed to these wars; in Chicago and Philadelphia, military-aged males faced a firearm death risk greater than the combat death risks faced by one of the most heavily-engaged brigade combat teams of Iraq's surge."

"Across all the cities we studied, we found young Black and Hispanic men overwhelmingly bore these warlike risks of firearm death and injury," del Pozo added. "They were 96% of the victims. In the worst area of Chicago, they faced an annual shooting risk of nearly 6%."

The researcher also cautioned that "If high overall murder rates suggest cities where young men may face death risks greater than war, then Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, St Louis, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Memphis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Newark may compare to Chicago and Philadelphia."

Del Pozo added, "Hypervigilant and stressed, veterans are at elevated risk of homelessness, substance use, suicide, and other behavioral health problems. So are these young men. But war is a limited exposure; the risks of living in a violent neighborhood accumulate year after year with no break."

The study concluded, "In this cross-sectional study, for young adult men in several of the communities studied, firearm violence carried morbidity and mortality risks that exceeded those of war."

The study noted the 30 percent annual increase in homicides seen in 2020, "with firearms becoming the leading cause of death for children, adolescents, and young adults for the first time. This study used combat mortality and violent injury risks of military service in recent US theaters of war as a benchmark to contextualize this public health crisis and to better frame its health effects on the most exposed communities."

Researchers compared the rates of firearm-related homicides and nonfatal shooting injuries among military-age males, men between the ages of 18 and 29, "in selected parts of 4 major US cities with rates of death and injury faced by US soldiers deployed to the recent US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Additionally, “the traumas and sequelae associated with encountering death and violence while at war have been well documented and form the bases for support services offered to veterans. If domestic homicide mortality and injury risks are comparable, it may call for developing similar interventions.”

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