Disability and quality of life 20 years after traumatic brain injury


Many people who sustain traumatic brain injury (TBI) experience long-term cognitive, physical, and psychological deficits. These persistent symptoms can seriously reduce quality of life, work capacity, and social functioning. Evidence suggests that TBI can be related to poor outcomes at a decade post-injury. However, little research has examined outcomes beyond the first ten years after experiencing TBI.

A Norwegian study aimed to address this research gap by investigating functional outcomes and health-related quality of life (HRQL) in individuals who experienced TBI 20 years ago. Researchers administered a battery of health and function assessments to 44 participants who experienced moderate to severe TBI during 1995-1996. They determined that:

  • Those with severe injury had significantly lower employment rates.
  • Participants reported better community integration at 20 years after injury than they had ten years prior, indicating social improvement over the long-term recovery period.
  • Individuals who showed productive activity at ten years post-injury had better physical and mental health at 20 years post-injury.

For individuals who experience moderate and severe TBI, functional deficits and limitations can persist for decades after initial injury. Importantly, earlier efforts at social integration and productive activity can predict positive outcomes later in the recovery period, suggesting that early intervention strategies and rehabilitation services are critical for long-term recovery from TBI.

Andelic N, How EI, Hellstrøm T, et al. Disability and quality of life 20 years after traumatic brain injury. Brain and Behavior. (May 2018).

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