The Effects of U.S. School Shootings on Children’s Antidepressant Use
More than 220,000 American students have experienced a school shooting since the 1998 Columbine High massacre. School shootings are vastly more common in the U.S. than in any other developed country, and are becoming more frequent and deadly in recent years. While these events receive widespread media coverage and incite public debates, there is little empirical research quantifying their population-level mental health impacts. We combined data on 44 school shootings between January 2008 and April 2013 with data on antidepressant prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies between January 2006 and March 2015. We compared the number of antidepressants prescribed to children under age 20 by providers located in close proximity of a school that experienced a shooting (shooting-exposed area) to those prescribed to children by providers located slightly further away (reference group), both in the two years before and the two years after a shooting. The average number of monthly antidepressant prescriptions written to children was significantly higher in the shooting-exposed areas relative to the reference groups in the two years after a fatal shooting versus the two years before. The effect persisted when extending the post-shooting observation window to three years and was similar when using an alternative reference group of providers located in close proximity to observationally similar schools without a shooting. We found no significant effects on children’s antidepressant prescriptions following non-fatal shootings or on adult antidepressant use. Our results suggest that local exposure to fatal school shootings increases antidepressant use among children under 20 years old, a previously unmeasured cost of these events.
Maya Rossin-Slater Assistant Professor of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University Faculty Fellow, SIEPER Faculty Research Fellow, NBER Research Affiliate, IZA
Maya Rossin-Slater is an Assistant Professor of Health Research and Policy at Stanford University School of Medicine. She is also a Faculty Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and a Research Affiliate at the Institute of Labor Economics (IZA). She received her Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia University in 2013, and was an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara from 2013 to 2017. Rossin-Slater’s research includes work in health, public, and labor economics. She focuses on issues in maternal and child well-being, family structure and behavior, and policies targeting disadvantaged populations in the United States and other developed countries.