Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Brain Injuries May Raise Risk of Early Death

Researchers find second head injury, suicide and assault are the main causes

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 15, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People who have suffered a traumatic brain injury appear to have a much higher risk of dying prematurely, a new study suggests.

These risks include having another brain injury, being assaulted and suicide. The risks are even higher for those with a psychiatric or drug abuse problem, the researchers added.

"After a traumatic brain injury, patients have a threefold increased risk of dying prematurely," said lead researcher Dr. Seena Fazel, a Wellcome Trust senior research fellow in clinical science at the University of Oxford in England.

"Fifty percent of the early deaths are due to either accident or suicide or being assaulted," he said. "That seems to be related to psychiatric illness and substance abuse."

The study found that 61 percent of these patients had psychiatric or substance abuse problems, Fazel said. In some cases, these problems were present before the injury, while some developed after the injury, he added.

The dangers of developing psychiatric or drug abuse problems after an injury may be caused by a variety of factors, including biological and social changes.

These risks might be a particular problem for soldiers and athletes who have had a traumatic brain injury, Fazel suggested.

"A large number of vets have suffered traumatic brain injuries, and we know a lot of vets are dying from suicide. Traumatic brain injury may be one of the factors that increases their risk," he said.

Fazel believes that after a traumatic brain injury, patients need to be monitored for risk factors that may put them at risk for dying prematurely.

"Some of these problems, like psychiatric illness and substance abuse, can be treated," he said.

While the study found an association between traumatic brain injury and early death, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

The report was published online Jan. 15 in JAMA Psychiatry.

One expert said he thinks certain personality traits play a part in the phenomenon.

"The people that are dying earlier have personality characteristics that make them vulnerable to have brain injury," said Dr. Robert Robinson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa and author of an accompanying editorial.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix