Mass shooting episodes have increased over recent decades and received substantial media coverage. Despite the potentially widespread and increasing mental health impact of mass shootings, no efforts to our knowledge have been made to review the empirical literature on this topic. We identified 49 peer-reviewed articles, comprised of 27 independent samples in the aftermath of 15 mass shooting incidents. Based on our review, we concluded that mass shootings are associated with a variety of adverse psychological outcomes in survivors and members of affected communities. Less is known about the psychological effects of mass shootings on indirectly exposed populations; however, there is evidence that such events lead to at least short-term increases in fears and declines in perceived safety. A variety of risk factors for adverse psychological outcomes have been identified, including demographic and pre-incident characteristics (e.g., female gender and pre-incident psychological symptoms), event exposure (e.g., greater proximity to the attack and acquaintance with the deceased), and fewer psychosocial resources (e.g., emotion regulation difficulties and lower social support). Further research that draws on pre-incident and longitudinal data will yield important insights into the processes that exacerbate or sustain post-incident psychological symptoms over time and provide important information for crisis preparedness and post-incident mental health interventions.
Keywords: major depression; mass shootings; mass trauma; posttraumatic stress; psychosocial resources; risk and protective factors; school shootings.
© The Author(s) 2015.