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The Nation

Study Links Head Injury, Depression

January 15, 2002|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — Concussions and other head injuries in early adulthood may significantly raise the risk of depression decades later, a study of World War II veterans found.

The study has disturbing implications for football and hockey players, motorcyclists and others who have taken blows to the head.

Other research has shown that head trauma patients may be prone to depression shortly after suffering their injuries. But the new findings suggest that the risk persists even 50 years later.

The study involved 1,718 veterans hospitalized for various ailments during the war and questioned 50 years later. About 11% who had had head injuries said they currently had major depression, compared with 8.5% of those hospitalized during the war for other reasons.

Overall, the lifetime prevalence of major depression was 18.5% in the head-injury group and 13.4% among the other veterans, Drs. Tracey Holsinger and Brenda Plassman of Duke University and their colleagues reported in January's Archives of General Psychiatry.

The researchers found similar depression rates in veterans who had received their head injuries in combat and in those whose injuries occurred elsewhere.

Plassman said the findings could mean that people who suffer head injuries today--for example, football players or motorcyclists--will have a greater risk of depression.

While it is unclear how head injury is related to depression, Holsinger and colleagues offer some theories. Depression has been linked with dysfunction in the brain's frontal region, and research has suggested a strong link between depression and head trauma resulting in lesions in the frontal region, the researchers said.

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