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West J Emerg Med. 2014 Aug;15(5):609-14. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2014.4.21275. Epub 2014 Aug 1.

Screening for violence risk factors identifies young adults at risk for return emergency department visit for injury.

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Emory University School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia.
Saint Joseph's Mercy Care Services, Atlanta, Georgia.



Homicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 15-24. Prior cross-sectional studies, in non-healthcare settings, have reported exposure to community violence, peer behavior, and delinquency as risk factors for violent injury. However, longitudinal cohort studies have not been performed to evaluate the temporal or predictive relationship between these risk factors and emergency department (ED) visits for injuries among at-risk youth. The objective was to assess whether self-reported exposure to violence risk factors in young adults can be used to predict future ED visits for injuries over a 1-year period.


This prospective cohort study was performed in the ED of a Southeastern US Level I trauma center. Eligible participants were patients aged 18-24, presenting for any chief complaint. We excluded patients if they were critically ill, incarcerated, or could not read English. Initial recruitment occurred over a 6-month period, by a research assistant in the ED for 3-5 days per week, with shifts scheduled such that they included weekends and weekdays, over the hours from 8AM-8PM. At the time of initial contact in the ED, patients were asked to complete a written questionnaire, consisting of previously validated instruments measuring the following risk factors: a) aggression, b) perceived likelihood of violence, c) recent violent behavior, d) peer behavior, e) community exposure to violence, and f) positive future outlook. At 12 months following the initial ED visit, the participants' medical records were reviewed to identify any subsequent ED visits for injury-related complaints. We analyzed data with chi-square and logistic regression analyses.


Three hundred thirty-two patients were approached, of whom 300 patients consented. Participants' average age was 21.1 years, with 60.1% female, 86.0% African American. After controlling for participant gender, ethnicity, or injury complaint at time of first visit, return visits for injuries were significantly associated with: hostile/aggressive feelings (Odds ratio (OR) 3.5, 95% Confidence interval (CI): 1.3, 9.8), self-reported perceived likelihood of violence (OR 10.1, 95% CI: 2.5, 40.6), and peer group violence (OR 6.7, 95% CI: 2.0, 22.3).


A brief survey of risk factors for violence is predictive of increased probability of a return visit to the ED for injury. These findings identify a potentially important tool for primary prevention of violent injuries among at-risk youth seen in the ED for trauma-related and non-traumatic complaints.

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