Employment in the years following moderate to severe traumatic brain injury

business man holding his head

Most people who survive traumatic brain injury (TBI) are of working age, and many who sustain more serious injuries struggle to maintain employment during and after the recovery period. Return to work is a key goal for TBI rehabilitation, so identifying early risk factors for injury-related unemployment can meaningfully improve an individual’s chances of returning to work and maintaining a normal quality of life. Although the association between TBI and unemployment is significant, few studies have investigated long-term employment outcomes for people who have sustained brain injuries.

To address this research gap, a recent Norwegian study examined employment among individuals who sustained TBI more than 10 years ago. Researchers collected data on the employment status of 97 individuals who were admitted to a Norwegian hospital with moderate to severe TBI, and they determined that:

  • Employment rates were nearly the same at one year post-injury and ten years post-injury, suggesting that early interventions to increase return-to-work can be critical for positive long-term outcomes.
  • Individuals who were in a stable romantic relationship or were already employed at the time of injury were more likely to remain employed during the recovery period.
  • Those who worked in white collar professions had better employment outcomes at ten years post-injury.

Experiencing TBI increases individuals’ risk of unemployment in the months and years following injury. Because the capacity to maintain employment is considered a critical marker of rehabilitation, clinicians are advised to prioritize targeted interventions that help patients return to work in a safe, timely manner.

Howe EI, Andelic N, Berrin PB, et al. Employment probability trajectory up to 10 years after moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury. Frontiers in Neurology. (December 2018).

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