Physical and Mental Health and Functioning Among Traumatic Brain Injury Close Relatives: The Role of Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms

Noga Tsur, Chiara S. Haller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Severe Traumatic brain injury (sTBI) often instigates widespread long-lasting disability and is accompanied by extensive rehabilitation. Unsurprisingly, sTBI also holds malignant consequences for patients’ close relatives. The burden caused by the injury and its severity explains some of the ramifications for the relatives. Additionally, some findings demonstrate that patients with sTBI and their relatives develop posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms. However, although the link between PTS symptoms and physical and mental health is well-documented in literature, the effect of PTS symptoms on relatives of patients with sTBI has barely been examined. This study examines the influence of PTS symptoms of patients with sTBI and their relatives on the physical and mental health and functioning of the relatives. Patients who sustained a severe sTBI (Abbreviated Injury Scale of the head region > 3) and close relatives were included in a multi-center, prospective cohort study (TRAST-MI). One-hundred patients and their relatives were assessed at 2, 6, and 12 months post injury. Outcome variables included health-related quality of life (SF-12) as well as emotional, cognitive, interpersonal, and total functioning (PCRS). Relatives’ physical health was predicted by relatives’ PTS symptoms (Slope=−1.76; p =.043), and mental health was predicted by both patients’ (Slope=−2.77; p =.034) and relatives’ (Slope=−6.59; p <.001) PTS symptoms. Functioning level was only predicted by patients’ PTS symptoms (Slope=−.25; p<.001). The findings emphasize that TBI should be considered a comprehensive traumatic experience reaching further than mere physical damage to the brain and its direct consequences, affecting the injured individual and close relatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-680
Number of pages15
JournalFamily Process
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Functioning
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Posttraumatic stress symptoms
  • Relatives
  • Severe traumatic brain injury

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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