The rates of hospital admissions of children for physical abuse and high-risk traumatic brain injury (TBI) have increased over the past 10 years and appear to be associated with the housing mortgage crisis, according to research published online July 16 in Pediatrics.
Joanne N. Wood, M.D., M.S.H.P., of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a retrospective study of children admitted to 38 hospitals, from 2000 to 2009, for physical abuse; non-birth, non-motor vehicle crash-related TBI in infants less than 1 year of age; and all-cause injuries.
The researchers found that hospital admissions of children for physical abuse increased by 0.79 percent per year from 2000 to 2009. Similarly, children admitted for high-risk TBI increased by 3.1 percent per year. During this same period, all-cause injury rates decreased by 0.80 percent per year. Abuse and high-risk TBI admission rates were not related to local unemployment rates, but they were statistically significantly associated with the current mortgage delinquency rate and the change in delinquency and foreclosure rates from the preceding year.
"This study revealed that rates of hospital admissions for physical abuse and high-risk TBI have increased at children's hospitals across the country over the past 10 years," the authors write. "Within geographic regions, macroeconomic housing trends, in particular, 90-day delinquency rate and active mortgage foreclosures, were associated with both diagnosed physical abuse admissions as well as high-risk TBI admissions that carry a high suspicion for abuse."
One study author disclosed receiving payment as an expert witness for court testimony in cases of suspected child abuse.
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