Local exposure to school shootings and youth antidepressant use

Maya Rossin-Slater, Molly Schnell, Hannes Schwandt, Sam Trejo, Lindsey Uniat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


While over 240,000 American students experienced a school shooting in the last two decades, little is known about the impacts of these events on the mental health of surviving youth. Using large-scale prescription data from 2006 to 2015, we examine the effects of 44 school shootings on youth antidepressant use. Our empirical strategy compares the number of antidepressant prescriptions written by providers practicing 0 to 5 miles from a school that experienced a shooting (treatment areas) to the number of prescriptions written by providers practicing 10 to 15 miles away (reference areas), both before and after the shooting. We include month-by-year and school-by-area fixed effects in all specifications, thereby controlling for overall trends in antidepressant use and all time-invariant differences across locations. We find that local exposure to fatal school shootings increases youth antidepressant use by 21.4% in the following 2 y. These effects are smaller in areas with a higher density of mental health providers who focus on behavioral, rather than pharmacological, interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23484-23489
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number38
StatePublished - Sep 22 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Antidepressants
  • Gun violence
  • School shootings
  • Youth mental health


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