For two decades, medical and academic research has confirmed what many survivors of serious motor vehicle crashed have often said. The menta effects of traffic accidents can sometimes be as long-lasting, debilitating or even deadly as physical injuries.
Research reveals a common crisis
Exact numbers vary across studies in this developing field, but the trend is clear.
According to a research summary from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, about 9% of motor vehicle accident survivors develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With about three million accidents per year, tens of thousands of Americans may develop PTSD annually.
Not everyone seeks treatment for mental health issues of accidents. But among those survivors who do, the rate of PTSD appears to be roughly 60%.
Such patients are also much likelier to suffer from mood disorders. Some studies put their rate of major depression as high as about 50%, and a large study found patients surviving motor vehicle accidents to have an anxiety disorder as well as PTSD. More than one in seven had vehophobia, a fear of driving.
Prospects improvewith less damage and more help
That’s a lot of statistics. It may be enough to know that, according to one large study, a motor vehicle accident is the traumatic event most likely to be experienced by men and the second most likely to be experienced by women.
For professionals looking to help people better manage the after-effects of accidents, it’s often important to understand why some people seem to survive vehicle accidents without suffering PTSD, whereas others are not so lucky.
Results suggest the risk of PTSD increases when physical injuries are more severe. Accidents involving a greater threat of death or the death of loved ones are also strong predictors of later PTSD and other mental disorders.
After the accident, faster recovery from physical injuries, strong support from loved ones, and success in reengaging with work and community are strong predictors of better mental health outcomes. Any support a survivor can access to help in restoring their life to some semblance of normalcy is likely to improve their mental as well as physical prognosis.