One out of 10 U.S. adults goes to an emergency department every year for injury. Most injuries are considered relatively minor and providers often don’t look beyond what’s initially required to help that person heal. But what happens when a person arrives in the emergency department needing help for a minor injury and who also expresses symptoms of depression and anxiety?
Researchers wanted to find out how such patients fared long-term, something relatively well-studied for people with severe injury but uncharted for minor emergency treatment. They turned to data they had collected from previous work about long-term recovery from minor injuries.
In that initial study, the researchers used standard criteria to identify 1,110 patients who had sustained minor injuries, after excluding those with head trauma, those with a previous psychiatric diagnosis and those hospitalized during the past year for another minor injury. From this group, 275 men and women were randomly selected and interviewed at intake in the emergency room, as well as at three, six and 12 months after injury.
Along with the larger diagnostic exams that were given, they collected each patient’s symptoms of depression and anxiety using symptom-severity scales called the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale.
They learned that people with more symptoms of depression at the time of their injury still had trouble working a year later and more frequently required bed rest due to health problems. They found connections, though less substantial, for anxiety, too.
Although it’s unclear what’s driving the relationship between psychological symptoms at the time of injury and long-term recovery, they do know there is a range of symptoms which, if identified and evaluated, could change the way we allocate resources or suggest more intensive follow-up for certain people who might be at higher risk for poor recoveries.
It’s an important link between physical and mental well-being for these patients.
The study further validates that health care providers can’t separate people into psych and physical because there’s an interplay between both that’s important to understand. If the goal is to get patients back to their normal activities, psychological wellness must be incorporated to treatment after injury in order to meet that goal.
The researchers noted that future research should focus on building a better understanding of the pathways through which psychological symptoms influence long-term recovery.