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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Prevalence of Exposure to Risk Factors for Violence among Young Adults Seen in an Inner-City Emergency Department

  • Author(s): Hankin, Abigail;
  • Meagley, Brittany;
  • Wei, Stanley;
  • Houry, Debra
  • et al.

Introduction: To assess the prevalence of risk factors for violent injury among young adults treated at an urban emergency department (ED).

Methods: This study is a cross-sectional analysis of data collected as part of a longitudinal study. Enrollment took place in an urban ED in a Level 1 trauma center, June through December 2010. All patients aged 18–24 years were eligible. Patients were excluded if they were incarcerated, critically ill, or unable to read English. Study participants completed a 10-minute multiple-choice questionnaire using previously validated scales: a) aggression, b) perceived likelihood of violence, c) recent violent behavior, d) peer behavior, and e) community exposure to violence.

Results: 403 eligible patients were approached, of whom 365 (90.1%) consented to participate. Average age was 21.1 (95% confidence interval: 20.9, 21.3) years, and participants were 57.2% female, 85.7% African American, and 82.2% were educated at the high school level or beyond. Among study participants, rates of high-risk exposure to individual risk factors ranged from 7.4% (recent violent behavior) to 24.5% (exposure to community violence), with 32.3% of patients showing high exposure to at least one risk factor. When comparing participants by ethnicity, no significant differences were found between White, African-American, and Hispanic participants. Males and females differed significantly only on 1 of the scales – community violence, (20.4% of males vs. 30.3% of females, p¼0.03). Selfreported hostile/aggressive feelings were independently associated with initial presentation for injury associated complaint after controlling for age, sex, and race (odds ratio 3.48 (1.49-8.13).

Conclusion: Over 30% of young adults presenting to an urban ED reported high exposure to risk factors for violent injury. The high prevalence of these risk factors among ED patients highlights the potential benefit of a survey instrument to identify youth who might benefit from a targeted, ED-based violence prevention program. [West J Emerg Med. 2013;14(4):303–308.]

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