PAS: Abusive Head Trauma Up in Children During Recession

But researchers cannot link increase to higher unemployment rates
By Beth Gilbert
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- The incidence of abusive head trauma (AHT) among children has increased greatly since the start of the economic downturn in December 2007, though the increase may have no connection to higher unemployment rates, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, held from May 1 to 4 in Vancouver, Canada.

Rachel P. Berger, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and colleagues collected demographic and clinical data on all AHT cases from Jan. 1, 2004, through Nov. 30, 2007 -- prior to the recession -- and from Dec. 1, 2007, through Dec. 31, 2009 -- during the recession -- from four hospitals in Seattle, Columbus, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

The researchers found 459 AHT cases, 63 percent of whom were admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit and 16 percent of whom died. Just one-third of the children were older than 1 year of age. The number of cases of AHT increased to a mean of 9.3 per month after Dec. 1, 2007, from a mean of 4.8 per month before that date. However, the researchers were unable to attribute the increased incidence of AHT in children to higher unemployment rates.

"Although there was no ecologic relationship between increased unemployment and the magnitude of the increase in AHT, this relationship may exist on a case-by-case basis. It is also possible that other factors related to the recession such a decrease in social services and/or stressors unrelated to employment impacted the AHT incidence," the authors write.

Abstract No. 1140.4
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