Psychological distress associated with motor vehicle crashes: evidence from three meta-analyses

Ashley Craig, Rebecca Guest, Yvonne Tran, Bamini Gopinath, Justin Kenardy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Psychological distress associated with a physical injury following a motor vehicle
crash (MVC) is a common problem that has potential short, medium and long-term negative impacts. For example, elevated psychological distress can result in
psychological disorder such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, social isolation, financial distress through loss of employment, strain on family relationships, and increased insurance costs. This chapter presents evidence concerning the extent and nature of psychological distress following a MVC. The primary source of evidence for this chapter comes from meta-analyses data that examined psychological distress associated with MVC-related physical injuries. Research literature involving physical injuries that can occur in a MVC were reviewed, and these included whiplash, low back injury, spinal cord injury, mild to moderate traumatic brain injury, fractures and burns. Systematic searches meeting meta-analyses inclusion criteria produced 24 studies involving 4,502 injured participants. Unfortunately, no studies meeting inclusion criteria were found for psychological distress associated with burns, fractures and low back
injury. Results confirmed that elevated levels of psychological distress such as depressive mood and trauma-based anxiety is associated with MVC-related physical injuries. For whiplash, a large summary effect size was found, a medium to large effect size was found for spinal cord injury, and a small to medium effect size for mild to moderate traumatic brain injury. Data also revealed that psychological distress remained elevated in SCI up to 10 years after the MVC while in those with mild to moderate traumatic brain injury and whiplash, distress levels were maintained up to at least three years post-MVC. Evidence also suggests that entering a compensation scheme may increase levels of
distress above and beyond the distress associated with the MVC. Clearly, action is required to address risks associated with a MVC and effective psychological and medical strategies are needed to minimize distress subsequent to an injury sustained in a MVC. This analysis also established that the scientific robustness of comparative studies requires improvement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdversity after the crash
Subtitle of host publicationthe physical, psychological and social burden of motor vehicle crashes
EditorsAshley Craig, Rebecca Guest
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherNova Science Publishers
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781536145649
ISBN (Print)9781536145632
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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