Our traumatic brain injury (TBI) attorneys have often written about the high personal and societal costs of traumatic brain injury. Now, it has come to light that traumatic brain injury, or TBI, has yet another negative consequence that has gone unacknowledged in the past: clinical depression. A new study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the connection between TBI and clinical depression, and the results were astounding. Of those who survive a traumatic brain injury, nearly half will suffer from clinical depression in the year following the injury.
This high rate of clinical depression is about eight times higher than the rate of clinical depression in the population at large. And the researchers conducting the study stated that they believe that this is a conservative picture of the rate of depression in TBI victims. Adding to the problem, those TBI victims who experienced clinical depression also experienced higher rates of other complications of the brain injury, including greater pain, greater difficulties with mobility, and greater issues with performing their usual activities and responsibilities.
The study did not establish causation, however: it is unclear whether the depression caused these complications, or vice versa, or even whether both are associated with particular types of brain injury. Nor did the study look at whether repetitive TBI, commonly seen in athletes and soldiers, had any association with increased risk of depression. What is clear, however, is that the physicians and loved ones of TBI victims must carefully monitor these individuals so that depression can be promptly addressed. Our Chicago brain injury lawyers have often seen depression in our clients, and hope that this study will help to persuade judges and juries to include compensation for this injury in brain injury awards.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Washington, looked at over 500 participants in the Seattle area. All had suffered a head injury, and had signs of brain trauma visible on a CT scan. All also suffered complications from the head injury consistent with TBI (such as loss of consciousness, disorientation, etc.). Researchers monitored the participants for the first six months after their injuries, then at 8, 10, and 12 months after.
The severity of the injuries studied varied greatly. But the severity of the injury appeared to have little to no connection to the likelihood of clinical depression. Some factors did have a connection to the likelihood of depression, however. Some of these were predictable, such as prior history of depression or other mental problems, drug addiction, and the cause of the injury (victims of violence were far more likely to suffer from depression). Other factors were less predictable – for instance, a TBI victim was more likely to suffer from depression if he is African American, had not completed high school.
A traumatic brain injury can be a serious problem. In the United States alone, about 1.5 people suffer a TBI each year. The symptoms of TBI can include those listed above, as well as personality changes, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, headaches and mood swings. For the majority of victims of TBI symptoms cease within a year. For others, however, these symptoms can last much longer. 80,000 Americans each year suffer from a TBI that results in a persistent, major, disability.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago brain injury attorney at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.