, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 169-176
Date: 24 Nov 2012

Depression, Posttraumatic Stress, and Risk Factors Following Spinal Cord Injury

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Chronic depression and posttraumatic stress have been frequently observed in populations of accident victims with spinal cord injuries. Studies suggest that various risk factors contribute to the development and maintenance of these symptoms.


This study assessed psychopathology around 4 years post-discharge in a German sample of 102 participants with spinal cord injuries.


A wide range of sociodemographic, clinical, and psychological variables was investigated with regard to their association with psychopathology.


Approximately half of the patients (46.1 %) retrospectively reported clinically relevant depressive symptoms immediately post-discharge and 12.7 % exhibited scores indicative of a present depressive disorder. In addition, 8.8 % retrospectively reported clinically relevant symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after discharge from the hospital and 2 % were currently identified with chronic PTSD symptomatology. Time since injury and negative trauma-related appraisals of the self were strongly related to current psychopathology.


Depressive reactions and posttraumatic distress may commonly occur after spinal injuries but will usually improve over time. It might be useful to routinely arrange follow-up contacts post-discharge in order to timely identify patients who are at risk of developing chronic psychopathology and require intervention.