Recent research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Psychiatry reveals a link between traumatic brain injury and premature death. The study, led by Dr. Seena Fazel, a Wellcome Trust research fellow at England’s prestigious Oxford University, examined over 40 years’ worth of patient data provided by health authorities in Sweden. Fazel and his team found that, after accounting for other health, lifestyle and environmental factors, those who had suffered one or more traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) earlier in life were three times more likely to die before the age of 56 than those with no history of TBI.

Specifics of the study

The data examined for the study included comprehensive medical records of 218,300 Swedish people born after 1954 who suffered a TBI between 1969 and 2009. The team compared data gathered from examining the records of TBI patients with both the general population and medical records of the siblings of those original TBI patients.

Of the 218,300 TBI victims studied, nearly 11,000 of them died prematurely (which, for purposes of the study, means that they died before the age of 56), and nearly 22 percent of those people were dead within six months of sustaining a brain injury. When compared to the general population, those patients died prematurely three times more than people who hadn’t suffered a TBI. Traumatic brain injuries even affected members of the same family disparately; people with a history of TBI died prematurely 2.6 times as often as their siblings without TBI did.

Interestingly, the study found a direct link between psychiatric disorders, TBI and premature death. Patients diagnosed with a psychiatric condition before or after their brain injury were 20 times more likely to die prematurely than someone with no TBI and no psychiatric illnesses.

Looking forward

The research team discovered that many TBI patients who died prematurely had common causes of death, including suicide, assault and subsequent brain trauma. This leads some researchers to believe that behavioral or lifestyle assessments might be able to determine which TBI patients would be apt to risk-taking behavior (like racing cars, getting into fights or not taking proper safety precautions) that would lead them to be in a position to die prematurely.

If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI or another serious personal injury, you know how life-changing such an injury can be. With this research being so new, the exact impact of its findings on the way doctors diagnose and treat TBI remains to be seen. For example, there is currently no specific protocol dealing with handling the impact of TBI on a patient with preexisting psychiatric conditions, but this research could very well be the catalyst to create such a protocol.

In the meantime, though, it is important to get the best medical care possible to treat symptoms coming from the injury and to ensure that your life isn’t shortened because of it. If your injury happened because of the recklessness or negligence of another person, you may be able to file a legal claim to recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and other associated costs, so speak with a personal injury attorney in your area to learn more.