Violence in U.S. Down, but Still Widespread
Homicide and assault rates have decreased significantly since 1980, but overall rates of violence remain high, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Journal reports that homicide rates have decreased from a peak of 10.7 per 100?000 persons in 1980 to 5.1 per 100?000 in 2013. Aggravated assault rates have decreased from a peak of 442 per 100?000 in 1992 to 242 per 100 000 in 2012.
Nevertheless, the report says, annually, there are more than 16?000 homicides and 1.6 million nonfatal assault injuries requiring treatment in emergency departments. More than 12 million adults experience intimate partner violence annually and more than 10 million children younger than 18 years experience some form of maltreatment from a caregiver, ranging from neglect to sexual abuse, but only a small percentage of these violent incidents are reported to law enforcement, health care clinicians, or child protective agencies.
Moreover, exposure to violence increases vulnerability to a broad range of mental and physical health problems over the life course; for example, meta-analyses indicate that exposure to physical abuse in childhood is associated with a 54% increased odds of depressive disorder, a 78% increased odds of sexually transmitted illness or risky sexual behavior, and a 32% increased odds of obesity.
According to the report, rates of violence vary by age, geographic location, sex, and race/ethnicity, and significant disparities exist. Homicide is the leading cause of death for non-Hispanic blacks from age 1 through 44 years, whereas it is the fifth most common cause of death among non-Hispanic whites in this age range. Additionally, efforts to understand, prevent, and respond to interpersonal violence have often neglected the degree to which many forms of violence are interconnected at the individual level, across relationships and communities, and even intergenerationally.
The most effective violence prevention strategies include parent and family-focused programs, early childhood education, school-based programs, therapeutic or counseling interventions, and public policy, the report says. For example, a systematic review of early childhood home visitation programs found a 38.9% reduction in episodes of child maltreatment in intervention participants compared with control participants.