Objective: Accurate information regarding the psychopathological consequences of surviving traumatic injury is of great importance for effective health service design and planning. Regrettably, existing studies vary dramatically in reported prevalence rates of psychopathology within this population. The aim of this study was to identify the prevalence of psychiatric morbidity following severe injury by adopting a longitudinal design with close attention to optimizing the research methodology.
Method: Consecutive admissions (N=363) to a level 1 trauma service, excluding those with moderate or severe traumatic brain injury, were assessed at three time periods: just before discharge and 3 and 12 months after their injury. Structured clinical interviews were used to assess anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and substance use disorders.
Results: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder were the most frequent diagnoses at both 3 and 12 months, with 10% of participants meeting diagnostic criteria for each disorder at 12 months. Over 20% of the group met criteria for at least one psychiatric diagnosis 12 months after their injury. Comorbidity was common, with the most frequent being PTSD with major depressive disorder.
Conclusions: Psychopathology following injury is a frequent and persistent occurrence. Despite the adoption of a rigorous and potentially conservative methodology, one-fifth of participants met criteria for one or more psychiatric diagnoses 12 months after their injury. These findings have major implications for injury health care providers.