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Firearm injury epidemiology in children and youth in Ontario, Canada: a population-based study


Background and Objective — Despite firearms contributing to significant morbidity and mortality globally, firearm injury epidemiology is seldom described outside of the USA. We examined firearm injuries among youth in Canada, including weapon type, and intent.

Design — Population-based, pooled cross-sectional study using linked health administrative and demographic databases.

Setting — Ontario, Canada.

Participants — All children and youth from birth to 24 years, residing in Ontario from 1 April 2003 to 31 March 2018.

Exposure — Firearm injury intent and weapon type using the International Classification of Disease-10 CM codes with Canadian enhancements. Secondary exposures were sociodemographics including age, sex, rurality and income.

Main Outcomes — Any hospital or death record of a firearm injury with counts and rates of firearm injuries described overall and stratified by weapon type and injury intent. Multivariable Poisson regression stratified by injury intent was used to calculate rate ratios of firearm injuries by weapon type.

Results — Of 5486 children and youth with a firearm injury (annual rate: 8.8/100 000 population), 90.7% survived. Most injuries occurred in males (90.1%, 15.5/100 000 population). 62.3% (3416) of injuries were unintentional (5.5/100 000 population) of which 1.9% were deaths, whereas 26.5% (1452) were assault related (2.3/100 00 population) of which 18.7% were deaths. Self-injury accounted for 3.7% (204) of cases of which 72.0% were deaths. Across all intents, adjusted regression models showed males were at an increased risk of injury. Non-powdered firearms accounted for half (48.6%, 3.9/100 000 population) of all injuries. Compared with handguns, non-powdered firearms had a higher risk of causing unintentional injuries (adjusted rate ratio (aRR) 14.75, 95% CI 12.01 to 18.12) but not assault (aRR 0.84, 95% CI 0.70 to 1.00).

Conclusions — Firearm injuries are a preventable public health problem among youth in Ontario, Canada. Unintentional injuries and those caused by non-powdered firearms were most common and assault and self-injury contributed to substantial firearm-related deaths and should be a focus of prevention efforts.



Saunders NR, Hepburn CM, Huang A, de Oliveira C, Strauss R, Fiksenbaum L, Pageau P, Liu N, Gomez D, Macpherson A. BMJ Open. 2021; 11:e053859. Epub 2021 Nov 18.

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