(CNN) – Mass shootings across the United States sharply increased in a 15-month period during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research.
A study published in the journal JAMA Network Open shows from April 2020 to July 2021, there were 343 more mass shootings in the U.S. than expected, compared to trends in other years. Mass shootings are defined as four or more people being hurt or killed, excluding the shooter.
The research shows there were 217 more people killed and nearly 1,500 more people injured than expected.
Increases in mass shootings during the pandemic were observed across nearly 900 U.S. cities included in the data. Cities with both low and high pre-pandemic mass shootings contributed most to the overall increase in deaths, as opposed to cities in the middle of the range.
Researchers say the sharp rise in this type of violence is consistent with the idea that mass shootings may be influenced by social factors, like isolation, or economic factors, like job loss.
“It is a situation where individuals are trapped. They feel trapped. They feel desperate, and this is when the danger emerges,” said Ken Yeager, director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience Program at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
Knowing what may be behind the increase in shootings could help, Yeager says.
“We have hit the perfect storm because over the past two decades has been shaving of the mental health budget, reduction of resources for mental health services,” he said. “There is no silver bullet, so to speak. There is no immediate fix to this, but there is an opportunity here to recognize that this is an area where resources need to be directed.”
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