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Open Access Research article

Five years post whiplash injury: Symptoms and psychological factors in recovered versus non-recovered

Daniel Merrick and Britt-Marie Stålnacke*

Author Affiliations

Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation (Rehabilitation Medicine) Bldg 9A, Umeå University Hospital, Umeå University, SE-901 85 Umeå, Sweden

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:190  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-190

Published: 13 July 2010



Few studies have focused on the differences between persons who are recovered after whiplash injury and those who suffer from persistent disability. The primary aim of this study was therefore to examine differences in symptoms, psychological factors and life satisfaction between subjects classified as recovered and those with persistent disability five years after whiplash injury based on the Neck Disability Index (NDI).


A set of questionnaires was answered by 158 persons (75 men, 83 women) to assess disability (NDI), pain intensity (VAS), whiplash-related symptoms (Rivermead Post-Concussion Symptoms Questionnaire, RPQ), post-traumatic stress (Impact of Event Scale, IES), depression (Beck's depression inventory, BDI) and life satisfaction (LiSat-11).

The participants were divided into three groups based on the results of the NDI: recovered (34.8%), mild disability (37.3%) and moderate/severe disability (27.3%).


The moderate/severe group reported significantly higher VAS, BDI and IES scores and lower level of physical health and psychological health compared to the mild and the recovered groups. Less significant differences were reported between the mild and the recovered groups.


The group with the highest disability score reported most health problems with pain, symptoms, depression, post-traumatic stress and decreased life satisfaction. These findings indicate that classifying these subjects into subgroups based on disability levels makes it possible to optimize the management and treatment after whiplash injury.