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Emerg Med J. 2002 September; 19(5): 400–404.
PMCID: PMC1725976

The psychological burden of injury: an 18 month prospective cohort study


Objectives: To determine the prevalence of post-trauma psychological problems among a cohort of male accident and emergency department patients admitted to hospital. To identify the changes in their psychological symptoms over an 18 month follow up period.

Methods: A prospective cohort study of male accident and emergency department patients who were admitted for treatment of an injury. Baseline interview recorded demographic details and accident details. Standardised questionnaires measured baseline psychological state and personality type. Follow up at six weeks, six months, and 18 months after injury was by face to face interview or postal questionnaire and recorded progress since injury, and documented psychological status through the use of standardised questionnaires to detect psychiatric disorder and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Results: 210 male patients were recruited into the study. Psychiatric disorder was identified in 47.6% of responders at six weeks, and 43.4% at six months after injury. This improved significantly at 18 months. PTSD symptoms were moderate in 25%–30% and severe in 5%–14% and did not change significantly over the study period. A significant relation was found between previous psychiatric history and psychological symptoms at 18 months after injury. No relation was identified between injury severity and psychological status after injury.

Conclusion: This study finds a high prevalence of psychological distress in male accident and emergency department patients after injury. Although some symptoms resolve over the follow up period, a proportion remain and may be related to previous psychiatric history. There was no relation identified between severity of injury and psychological morbidity.

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