Research identifies health impact of traffic accidents

More than 40 per cent of people injured in a traffic accident are psychologically distressed one month after their accident, with many of those suffering depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms.

The research forms part of the latest findings into the physical and emotional impact of motor vehicle crash injuries by the team from the John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research.

From left to right: Lisa Harvey, James Middleton, Ashley Craig, Bamini Gopinath, Ian Cameron, IIaria Pozzato

Clinician and Kolling Institute researcher Professor Ashley Craig said their results follow a five year study involving more than 2,000 people injured in a motor vehicle accident.

“One in three people injured in a traffic accident suffer depression and experience post-traumatic stress symptoms,” Professor Craig said.

“By following patients over a long period of time, we now recognise that people suffering psychological distress are at a higher risk of developing severe mental health disorders, chronic pain and long-term disability, and that it can take much longer for them to recover.

“This can lead to a dramatic increase in costs and take four times longer for crash survivors to recover.”

Professor Ian Cameron said the team also examined factors influencing health outcomes after motor vehicle crash injury and approaches to improving wellbeing.

“Traditional medical models often fail to assist recovery after a crash,” Professor Cameron said.

“Our research has shown that a return to usual activities as soon as possible is beneficial, challenging earlier recommendations that rest is best.

“We have seen that family support, flexibility from employers, such as altered duties, and early treatment covered by insurance companies, all contribute to a quicker recovery.

“With traffic injuries predicted to become the third leading cause of global burden by 2030, we hope that our findings will help influence future government policy and drive further reforms within the compensation system,” Professor Cameron said.