Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury at Much Higher Risk for Developing Major Depression


In a recent study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 53% of individuals who have suffered a traumatic brain injury develop major depressive disorder at some point during the year following the injury.

In the general population, only 6.7% develop this mood disorder. This study indicates that having a traumatic brain injury increases the risk of developing major depression by almost 8 times. Past estimates were quite a bit lower, ranging from only 12% up to 42% for brain injury patients. These findings were reported by Dr. Charles Bombardier and his associates at the University of Washington and Harborview Medical Center, both in Seattle.

Dr. Bombardier and his team stressed the importance of educating treatment providers regarding the risk of this population for developing major depression.

Harborview Medical Center is a level 1 trauma center. The patients in the study had sustained traumatic brain injuries ranging from mild to severe. Most of the injuries were the result of motor vehicle accidents. Over the course of the year following their injury, 53.1% qualified for a diagnosis of major depression at least once, and 36% met the criteria for the disorder for at least 6 months.

The tools used to diagnose major depression were the Patient Health Questionnaire depression and anxiety module, and the European Quality of Life measure. It was noted that one of the study’s limitations was that these are not traditional tools for making a diagnosis of major depression.

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