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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Incidence of self-reported brain injury and the relationship with substance abuse: findings from a longitudinal community survey

Robert J Tait*, Kaarin J Anstey and Peter Butterworth

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Centre for Mental Health Research, Australian National University. Canberra, ACT, 0200 Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:171  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-171

Published: 29 March 2010



Traumatic or serious brain injury (BI) has persistent and well documented adverse outcomes, yet 'mild' or 'moderate' BI, which often does not result in hospital treatment, accounts for half the total days of disability attributed to BI. There are currently few data available from community samples on the incidence and correlates of these injuries. Therefore, the study aimed to assess the 1) incidence of self-reported mild (not requiring hospital admission) and moderate (admitted to hospital)) brain injury (BI), 2) causes of injury 3) physical health scores and 4) relationship between BI and problematic alcohol or marijuana use.


An Australian community sequential-cohort study (cohorts aged 20-24, 40-44 and 60-64 years at wave one) used a survey methodology to assess BI and substance use at baseline and four years later.


Of the 7485 wave one participants, 89.7% were re-interviewed at wave two. There were 56 mild (230.8/100000 person-years) and 44 moderate BI (180.5/100000 person-years) reported between waves one and two. Males and those in the 20-24 year cohort had increased risk of BI. Sports injury was the most frequent cause of BI (40/100) with traffic accidents being a greater proportion of moderate (27%) than mild (7%) BI. Neither alcohol nor marijuana problems at wave one were predictors of BI. BI was not a predictor of developing substance use problems by wave two.


BI were prevalent in this community sample, though the incidence declined with age. Factors associated with BI in community samples differ from those reported in clinical samples (e.g. typically traumatic brain injury with traffic accidents the predominate cause). Further, detailed evaluation of the health consequences of these injuries is warranted.