A statement likely to bring Wayne LaPierre, the president of the NRA, storming onto my doorstep. Maybe with an angry mob at his back.
I wouldn’t state this, unless there was evidence.
For starters, autism is 5 times more likely in boys than girls. One in 42 boys, versus 1 in 189 girls, is diagnosed each year.
Coincidently, men are also nearly 5 times more likely than women to carry a gun.
Non-Hispanic white males are the most likely to be diagnosed with autism.
Non-Hispanic white males are the leading carriers of guns.
Convinced there’s a connection between guns and autism? Not yet?
Let’s look at the trends…
Autism rates have risen 30% over the past 3 years, according to the CDC.
Gun sales have also increased by exactly 30% over the past 3 years, according to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
In the US, 1 out of 68 kids has autism, making it the country with the highest incidence of autism in the world.
In the US, there are 89 guns per 100 citizens, making it the highest armed country in the world.
These independent numbers for guns and autism show a statistical parallel. One so compelling, I can only make a conclusion…
Guns cause autism.
Is this leap of logic extreme?
It wouldn’t be the first time an unrealistic association was formed about a public health issue, but usually they are made by nonmedical public figures.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr, son of late US Senator Robert F. Kennedy, claims without scientific evidence that epidemiologists and scientists are conspiring to cover up data and lie to consumers about the safety of vaccinations. He calls the physicians at the CDC “criminals” because they “poison our kids.”
Jenny McCarthy, Hugh Hefner’s wholesome Catholic girl, has spent the last 10 years arguing that vaccinations cause autism, refuting scientific claims on national television with the defense of “that’s bullshit.”
Despite the Institute of Medicine stating there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism, the continuous campaigning from nonmedical public figures has made its mark. People are not vaccinating their children and the US is seeing a tragic spike in preventable diseases.
With reduced vaccinations, 2014 has seen the highest rate of measles in over 20 years, according to the CDC.
But what the public needs to know is that vaccines don’t cause autism…guns cause autism.
Why don’t you believe me?
Because it’s not true? Because my evidence isn’t sound? Or because I’m not famous enough to make it believable?
What if George Clooney, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey all tweeted #GunsCauseAutism?
What if these 3 took this falsity and fought for it, despite scientific evidence proving no connection exists?
Would the public believe them?
If we have learned anything from anti-vaccination campaigns: yes.
Tools such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have created transparency in the lives of public figures. With this comes the evolution of parasocial interactions, the delusion that celebrities are delivering personalized messages. The public confidence in these messages creates a one-sided bond driving belief.
Early in 2014, a study released by the Journal of Health Communication researched adolescent girls’ attitudes and behaviors toward teen pregnancy after watching MTV’s 16 and Pregnant. The results revealed that teen girls perceived the messages in the show as “encouraging, that the benefits of teen pregnancy outweigh the risks.”
The study showed teens developed an illusion of friendship, forming a bond and establishing a one-sided relationship with the characters on the show.
As MTV’s 16 and Pregnant ratings soared, a review came out of Harvard titled “Adolescent childbearing: consequences and interventions.” This article looked at the real evidence…
Teen pregnancy leads to negative outcomes for the mothers, including higher risk of depression and lower educational attainment. Babies born to teen mothers have “inferior language skills and score lower on cognitive testing.”
It’s unlikely teens are watching MTV while simultaneously reviewing the medical literature associated with life decisions like pregnancy.
How can a pediatrician compete with a Playboy bunny, a Kennedy, or a reality TV show?
Perhaps, one way to spark interest is by stating a controversial correlation based on coincidence and speculation…
Guns cause autism.
As a doctor, I never imagined my medical opinion facing competition from celebrities, politicians, and TV shows, but this is the reality.
To be up to date on the literature no longer means simply knowing what was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It means understanding what’s trending on Twitter, what’s featured in reality TV, and what’s being said on talk shows like The View and The Doctors.
To better understand our patients’ mindsets and perspectives on health, we must be aware of the nonmedical opinions they’re ingesting and parasocial relationships they’ve formed.
Guns don’t cause autism. I wish they did; we would see a decrease in guns and autism.
But, that’s just my medical opinion.