People who survive traumatic brain injuries are three times more at risk of dying early, than the general population, researchers of a new study have warned.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry Jan. 15, researchers at Oxford University and the Karolinska Institute warn that people who had traumatic brain injury (TBI) are at risk of dying early particularly from suicide, injuries and assaults, suggesting a need for longer term care and follow-up of people who suffer from TBI. The researchers also claimed that the risks are higher for those who have psychiatric or drug abuse problem.

"After a traumatic brain injury, patients have a threefold increased risk of dying prematurely," lead researcher Dr. Seena Fazel, a Wellcome Trust senior research fellow in clinical science at the University of Oxford in England, told HealthDay News. "Fifty percent of the early deaths are due to either accident or suicide or being assaulted."

The researchers used data from Swedish medical records between 1969 and 2009 and tracked patients who survived the initial six-month danger period after injury. They found that without injury, 0.2 percent of people were dying prematurely before age 56. The premature-death rate, however, increases three-fold in patients who have previously suffered from traumatic brain injury. The death rate of those who also had psychiatric disorder soared to 4 percent.

"A large number of vets have suffered traumatic brain injuries, and we know a lot of vets are dying from suicide. Traumatic brain injury may be one of the factors that increase their risk," Fazel said. He also suggested that patients should be monitored for risk factors that can put them at risk of dying prematurely. "Some of these problems, like psychiatric illness and substance abuse, can be treated," he said.

Robert Robinson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa and author of an accompanying editorial believes that certain personality traits are to blame. "The people that are dying earlier have personality characteristics that make them vulnerable to have brain injury" HealthDay News quoted Robinson as saying. "These people are being injured because they're impulsive and thrill-seeking. These vulnerable personality characteristics are getting them not only into their first head injury, but into a subsequent head injury and that's causing this premature death."

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