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Fifty-seven consecutive severe male head injury patients together with a defined female relative were assessed at home 3, 6 and 12 months after injury in order to measure the psychiatric and social impact of the injury on the relative. Relatives were found to have significant and persistent psychiatric and social dysfunction and they considered themselves to have a high burden in caring for the relative throughout the year. No particular relationship was found to be the more vulnerable. The most frequent predictor of the relatives' psychiatric and social status was the level of symptomatic complaints voiced by the patients. The findings suggest the need for comprehensive rehabilitation of head injury patients and their relatives.