Psychiatric morbidity associated with motor vehicle accidents

J Nerv Ment Dis. 1995 Aug;183(8):495-504. doi: 10.1097/00005053-199508000-00001.


The primary purpose of this report was to determine the extent of psychiatric morbidity and comorbidity among a sample of recent victims of motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) in comparison to a nonaccident control population. Victims of recent MVAs (N = 158), who sought medical attention as a result of the MVA, were assessed in a University-based research clinic, 1 to 4 months after the accident for acute psychiatric and psychosocial consequences as well as for pre-MVA psychopathology using structured clinical interviews (Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, SCID, SCID-II, LIFE Base). Age- and gender-matched controls (N = 93) who had had no MVAs in the past year served as controls. Sixty-two MVA victims (39.2%) met DSM-III-R criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 55 met DSM-IV criteria. The MVA victims who met the criteria for PTSD were more subjectively distressed and had more impairment in role function (performance at work/school/homemaking, relationships with family or friends) than the MVA victims who did not meet the PTSD criteria or the controls. A high percentage (53%) of the MVA-PTSD group also met the criteria for current major depression, with most of that developing after the MVA. A prior history of major depression appears to be a risk factor for developing PTSD after an MVA (p = .0004): 50% of MVA victims who developed PTSD had a history of previous major depression, as compared with 23% of those with a less severe reaction to the MVA. A prior history of PTSD from earlier trauma also is associated with developing PTSD or a subsyndromal form of it (25.2%) (p = .0012). Personal injury MVAs exact substantial psychosocial costs on the victims. Early intervention, especially in vulnerable populations, might prevent some of this.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic* / psychology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Automobile Driving / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*