Depression Risk After Traumatic Brain Injury Higher for Women

brain injury

Based on an analysis of nine studies involving nearly 700,000 individuals, women are approximately 50% more likely to develop depression than men following a concussion or other traumatic brain injury (TBI). The study, presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists 2023 annual meeting, provides the highest-quality evidence to date that a patient’s gender influences the risk of depression after traumatic brain injury.

“Most studies showing the link between TBI and depression have focused on men,”

said lead author Isaac G. Freedman, M.D., MPH, an anesthesiology resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Traumatic Brain Injury

About 1.5 million Americans suffer a TBI every year, which can lead to long-term health effects such as memory loss and behavioural changes.

Men frequently sustain traumatic brain injuries from being struck in the head by objects, from car accidents, from self-harm (such as from firearms), and from assault. Intimate partner abuse and falls are common causes among women.

Sports-related concussions and damage from military duty are two more prominent causes of traumatic brain injury. According to a recent separate study, women’s soccer has the greatest prevalence of concussions among all contact sports.

Women who have a higher rate of soccer-related, repetitive head injuries and concussions may be at increased risk of depression,

said co-author Mani Sandhu, M.B.B.S., M.S., a neurosurgery resident at the University of Iowa, Iowa City.

Even if they have never experienced mental health issues before, women should be aware of the possibility of developing depression following a brain injury. They should also know what symptoms to look out for and when to get assistance, according to Dr. Freedman.

Physicians should be aware of the increased risk and think about doing a depression screening on women who have had traumatic brain injuries.

48% Higher Depression Risk

The scientists examined nine studies involving 691,364 traumatic brain injury victims. Of them, 330,759 were males, and an estimated 72,432 (21.9%) of them suffered depression. 360,605 were women, and an estimated 105,755 (29.3%) of them were women who developed depression. This indicated that the likelihood of depression in women was 48% higher than in males.

Researchers aren’t sure why TBI is more likely to lead to depression in women. It is known that women are more likely than men to experience depression, which is linked to fluctuating reproductive hormones.

“The resulting difference in brain circuits between men and women in combination with factors such as lack of social support, socioeconomic status and inadequate treatment options may make some women more vulnerable to post-TBI depression,”

said the senior author of the study, Benjamin F. Gruenbaum, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida.

According to the researchers, people should wear a seatbelt while driving and a helmet when participating in sports or riding a bicycle or scooter to help prevent traumatic brain injury.