Who is more likely to get depression after traumatic brain injury?

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Depression is a common complication following traumatic brain injury and it affects a person's ability to function well. Depression may also lead to problems with sleep, memory, and social skills-creating a complicated tangle of post-traumatic symptoms. Past research has shown conflicting evidence about the relationship between depression and brain injury, especially when addressing a history of depression prior to injury.

Australian researchers recently interviewed 100 traumatic brain injury patients to better determine how well pre-injury depression predicted post-injury depression. They also wanted to know if there were any other factors that predisposed a survivor to depression.

They confirmed that a history of depression before the injury significantly increased the risk of depression after the injury. However, they also found that "female gender, lower education, pain, post-injury unemployment, and longer time since injury" were also associated with an increased risk of post-traumatic depression.

Considering that the rate of depression increased over the first few years after injury, continued screening of depression over the long-term should be available for brain injury survivors so that appropriate treatment could be put into place.

Furthermore, the study showed that severity of injury was not a good predictor of depression. One reason could be that survivors of mild traumatic brain injury try harder to recreate their pre-injury life, and are more prone to depression or anxiety when faced with limitations.

Whelan-Goodinson R, Ponsford JL, Schonberger M, & Johnston L. Predictors of psychiatric disorders following traumatic brain injury. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. (January 2010).