Victims of traumatic brain injuries more likely to become mentally ill and die prematurely
Scientist have found that people involved in accidents in which they sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that permanently alter their brains can make the victims more likely to become mentally ill and die prematurely.
Because most health services often fail to make the link between traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and long-term mental consequences, patients can fall through the net into depression, behavioral problems, which can lead to patients having difficulties dealing with life situations and crime.
A TBI is defined as either a blow to the head due to a road accident, fall or sports injury that leads to a skull fracture, internal bleeding, and loss of consciousness for longer than an hour, or a combination of these symptoms.
Survivors of traumatic brain injuries are three times more likely to die prematurely than the general population
A published study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that TBI survivors are three times more likely to die prematurely than the general population, and often from suicide or fatal accidents.
Leader of the study, Seena Fazel of Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry, said the exact reasons for the increased risk of premature death (defined as dying before the age of 56 in this study) - are not clear, but may be linked to damage to parts of the brain responsible for judgment, decision-making and risk-taking.
Current guidelines do not recommend assessments of mental health or suicide risk in TBI patients, but focus rather on short-term survival, Fazel said.
“Looking at these findings, it may make more sense to treat some TBI patients as suffering from a chronic problem requiring longer-term management just like epilepsy or diabetes,” he said. “TBI survivors should be monitored carefully for signs of depression, substance abuse and other psychiatric disorders, which are all treatable conditions.”
Fazel and fellow researchers examined Swedish medical records going back 41 years covering 218,300 TBI survivors, 150,513 siblings of TBI survivors, and more than two million controls from the general population that matched by sex and age.
“We found that people who survive six months after TBI remain three times more likely to die prematurely than the control population and 2.6 times more likely to die than unaffected siblings,” Fazel said.
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