A grim and familiar pattern has followed the national parade of mass shootings. In their aftermath, the nation’s attention focuses on the dead and injured, their families and friends, and the witnesses. A growing body of research finds that the negative effects of mass shootings spread much farther than previously understood, harming the health of local residents who were not touched directly by the violence, Stateline reports. Mental health experts say that recognition should prompt authorities to direct more attention and resources toward preventing such events and helping a broader group of people after they occur. "It changes the entire picture on how much public resources we should use to attack gun violence,” said Erdal Tekin, co-author of a brief on the expanding research in the journal Health Affairs. “It would be informative for the public and policymakers to know that the impact of gun violence extends to people who think they are safe.”
Research shows that mass shootings lead to higher rates of depression and anxiety and higher risks for suicide among young people. They also lead to an overall decline in a community’s sense of well-being. One study found a higher incidence of infants born prematurely or with low birth weight in counties where a mass shooting had occurred. Some studies suggest that mass shootings damage economic prospects in a community, diminishing productivity and earnings. There isn’t a consensus about what constitutes a mass shooting. The Health Affairs brief describes mass shootings as: those with multiple victims, that are unexpected and random, typically in a public place and unrelated to another crime such as gang activity or armed robbery. The FBI defines them as cases in which at least four people are killed with a gun. Often, researchers say, the mass shootings occur in areas not prone to routine gun violence, shattering the sense of safety and well-being that residents took for granted.