People who sustain injury in a road traffic crash (RTC) have significant risk of psychiatric morbidity, but effective screening for identifying at-risk individuals soon after the RTC is lacking. We investigated whether pre-injury vulnerability can assist as an early screen to manage this risk. We recruited 120 adults who sustained physical injury in a RTC and admitted to an emergency department (ED). They were comprehensively assessed for acute and long-term presence of psychiatric disorder/morbidity and disability over 12-months after the injury, with comparisons to a non-injury control. Propensity matching based on six pre-injury vulnerability factors (age, sex, education, socioeconomic status, prior mental health, prior physical health) with the control group was used to determine membership of high vulnerability (HV) and low vulnerability (LV) injury sub-groups. Compared to the LV sub-group and controls that had similar pre-injury vulnerability, the HV sub-group had a worrying post-RTC recovery profile, with significantly higher rates of long-term psychiatric morbidity (42.2% vs. 23.1% and 15.9% respectively, p=0.002) including post-traumatic stress disorder and/or depression, and poorer psychological adjustment over the 12-months. In contrast, the HV and LV sub-groups were similar in injury-related characteristics and post-injury physical (pain, fatigue, physical functioning) and participation outcomes. Findings provide preliminary evidence that pre-injury vulnerability, primarily prior mental health status, is a promising screen for early identification of people at risk of psychiatric morbidity post-RTC. It is suggested this screen could be implemented in ED to prevent chronicity and improve recovery following a traumatic injury. Further research is warranted to enhance the screen’s effectiveness.
- psychological distress
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- road traffic crash