A new study said that youth who experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are more likely to experience long-term psychological and social problems than their unharmed siblings.
TBI constitutes the leading cause of morbidity and mortality of people under the age of 45 in the world, the study’s background information read.
The study stated that most of the research on TBIs focus on more severe injuries and their medical outcomes.
How milder TBI in childhood and adolescence is associated with adult mortality, psychiatric morbidity, and social outcomes remains unclear. This study published in PLOS Medicine sought to illuminate these issues.
The researchers, led by Seena Fazel of the University of Oxford, used national registers in Sweden covering 1.1 million individuals born between 1973 and 1985, and followed them into adulthood, until age 41.
9.1 percent of these people experienced at least one TBI before age 25. Of these people, researchers examined the risks of six medical and social outcomes: premature mortality, psychiatric inpatient admission, psychiatric outpatient visits, disability pension, welfare recipiency, and low educational attainment.
The researchers compared this group of TBI-injured people to their unharmed siblings to try to account for the risk that these outcomes run in families.
They found that TBI consistently predicted later risk of premature mortality, psychiatric inpatient admission, psychiatric outpatient visits, disability pension, welfare recipiency, and low educational attainment in the sibling-comparison analysis, with stronger effects for more severe injury, recurrence, and older age at time of injury (20 to 24 years old).
Given their findings, they recommend age-sensitive clinical guidelines and preventive strategies to be targeted at children and adolescents. Also, the public health benefits of preventing TBI should include social outcomes. In addition, consideration needs to be given to review the cognitive, psychiatric, and social development of all children and adolescents who sustain a head injury.
There were some criticisms of the study. It compared two groups, so it did not represent absolute risk, which is a far smaller percentage. Also, the median follow-up was eight years, so long term effects are unknown. In addition, the study proved correlation, but not causation.