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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington: Depression, Dementia Risks and Unsafe Firearm Storage Raise Concerns for Older Adults

Nearly a quarter of adults aged 65 and older in Washington State live in households where firearms were kept unlocked and loaded, according to a new report by researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health. Given the prevalence of dementia and depression in older adults, these findings raise concerns for the safety of older adults living in homes where firearms were not safely stored. The report was published April 16 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“As people age, dementia and depression can set in, especially for older adults who are socially isolated,” said Ms. Erin Morgan, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the School’s Department of Epidemiology. “These conditions can cause suicidal thoughts, confusion or agitation, resulting in some life-threatening situations when there’s easy access to a firearm.”

The study found nearly 39 percent of respondents reported living in a household with firearms. Of those households, 23.5 percent reported at least one firearm stored unlocked and loaded.

In this same surveyed population, 17.4 percent of respondents reported a depression diagnosis and 6.9 percent reported mental distress. In the last year, 12.2 percent of respondents said they had experienced memory loss. The prevalence of these conditions did not differ from non-firearm owning households, nor by storage practice of firearm-owning households.

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