The individuals were born in 1954 or later, and medical records covered the 40 years from 1969 to 2009. Within that group, 218,300 incurred TBIs, and 2,378 (1.1%) died at least six months or more after their injury. TBI was an independent risk factor for premature mortality, half of which was due to “external causes”—injuries, suicide, or assault. About 61 percent of those with TBI who died prematurely had lifetime substances abuse or other psychiatric diagnoses.
Yet those diagnoses may not explain these early deaths, said Robert Robinson, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, in an accompanying editorial. "[O]ne of the most likely explanations for the findings in the current study is the existence of personality characteristics of impulsiveness, risk-taking behaviors, and proneness to substance abuse,” Robinson said. “These patients incur a TBI and continue to demonstrate these behaviors after the TBI, which ultimately leads to a fatality.”
To read more about traumatic brain injury and psychiatric issues, see the Psychiatric News article, “When Traumatic Brain Injury Is Complicated by Personality Disorders.” Also see the book Management of Adults With Traumatic Brain Injury from American Psychiatric Publishing.