Mental Health Impact


I had a concussion when I was in college. I knew about and expected to have the most common symptoms: headache, light and sound hypersensitivity, difficulty concentrating and remembering, and nausea. But I did not know that experiencing a concussion is also associated with the development of mental health problems, which can manifest as behavior and mood changes, irritability, anxiety, depression, self-harm, and stress.

Since 2014, scientists have observed an association between experiencing a concussion and increased risk of psychological and behavioral problems. Most are resolved within four months of the injury. But concussions may also be associated with long-term mental health issues.

Andrée-Anne Ledoux and colleagues explored the association between experiencing a concussion during youth and the risk of developing mental health issues over a 10-year period. For this, the team compared children ages five to 18 who had experienced a concussion to children who had experienced an orthopedic injury which also caused acute pain and stress. They evaluated participants’ mental health, and the incidence of psychiatric hospitalization, self-harm, and suicide over time.

Children who experienced a concussion had a 40% greater risk of developing mental health issues over the following decade than children who had sustained an orthopedic injury, including elevated risk of psychiatric hospitalization, self-harm, and suicide, as shown in the graphs above.

I was one of the lucky ones. All of my symptoms, including changes in my mental health, were gone within a few weeks. But I was also fortunate because during the weeks that I was experiencing concussion symptoms, every one of them was carefully monitored during my follow-up medical visits to follow their trajectory. This is not the norm. The authors of the study argue that it should be given the potential for long-term effects.

Databyte via Andrée-Anne Ledoux, PhD, Richard J. Webster, PhD, Anna E. Clarke, et al. Risk of Mental Health Problems in Children and Youths Following Concussion, JAMA Network Open, 2022.