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How Physical Injury Affects Mental Health

Recovering from a physical injury isn’t easy. People think about the numerous visits to the physio or chiro, the GP and the exercises at home but not many consider the impact an injury has on a patient’s mental health.

When mental health is poor, recovery often takes longer or doesn’t occur. Research has identified the importance of treating the psychological impact of an injury as well as the physical injury for the best outcome.

Factors that Contribute to Poor Mental Health

Physical injury and mental health are closely linked. A serious injury or chronic illness can cause mental health problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Poor mental health can negatively impact on recovery rates of the physical injury or illness.

After an injury, a patient’s mental health can suffer for a range of reasons. The pain and time spent in hospital may contribute to depression or they may suffer from PTSD from the trauma of the injury. But the impact of the injury on a patient’s everyday life can cause the bulk of their psychological problems.

Reduced mobility can make it hard for them to leave the house and socialise with friends and family. When the injury forces a person to stop work, they may lose the social connection of seeing colleagues daily and their purpose in life.

Some people are depressed because they may never fully recover from the injury and their life has been altered. A patient may be worried about their short-term or long-term financial situation if they are unable to return to work for some time after the injury.

Studies of the Relationship Between Injury and Mental Health

According to Beyond Blue, three months after a traumatic injury, one in three people will experience major depression. The risk is even higher in those people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. Spinal cord injury patients are at greater risk of developing anxiety and depression.

Psychological morbidity predicts injury outcomes such as return to work, physical function and pain. Patients who suffered depression and PTSD soon after injury and at six months had rates of poorer quality of wellbeing including mobility, physical and social activity as measured by the Quality of Wellbeing Scale at 12 and 18 months after their injury.

The results of a Safe Work Australia survey reveals how important good support is for recovery and return to work rates. Employees with a psychological claim (23%) feel they weren’t offered the same level of support from their employer during their recovery as physically injured employees (67%). This lack of support may be a contributing factor to return to work rates with 79% of workers with a physical injury having returned compared to 58% with a psychological injury.

Mental Health Treatment

US psychologist Glen Aylward believes psychological factors, such as our beliefs, cognitions and emotions, are estimated to account for 38% of the variance as to whether a person with a physical injury will or will not recover.

The US study identifies the need to treat patients promptly if they report depression, anxiety or PTSD after an injury. Improvements in their mental health can assist with recovery of their physical injury and assist in returning to work faster.

Altius Group’s Movement and Work Conditioning Programs recognise the link between mental health during the recovery of a physical injury. The psychological therapy and multidisciplinary treatment and intervention supports those in the early phases of their recovery, with subacute and chronic conditions. Our psychologists screen and identify those patients who are at risk of a slower recovery. We then provide individually tailored support to assist clients regain control of their lives including a collaborative approach in treatment alignment and coordination.

If you would like to know more about our Movement and Work Conditioning Programs, call Altius Group on 1300 307 912 or contact us online.   

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