Teenagers who said they had a traumatic brain injury in
their lifetime, especially girls, also reported significantly higher rates of harmful
behavior, according to new research.
The study looked at 13 harmful health behaviours – such as contemplating
suicide, smoking marijuana or binge drinking – among 9,288 Ontario students between Grades 7 and 12.
“Both boys and girls were more likely to engage in a variety
of harmful behaviours if they reported a history of TBI, but girls engaged in
all 13 harmful behaviours we looked for, whereas boys were at higher risk of
engaging in only nine,” said Dr. Gabriela Ilie, lead author of the study and a
post-doctoral fellow at St.
Michael’s Hospital. “Sex matters when it comes to traumatic brain
The research, published today in the online journal PLOS ONE, showed that girls with
a history of TBI were more likely to have smoked cigarettes, been bullied,
contemplated suicide or have increased psychological distress.
Researchers defined TBI as any hit or blow to the head that
resulted in the teenager being knocked out for at least five minutes or
spending at least one night in hospital due to symptoms associated with the
“Traumatic brain injuries are invisible but ignorance is not
an excuse,” said Dr. Ilie. “Parents, clinicians, teachers and coaches need to
take all brain injuries, including concussions, seriously because their effects
can affect students’ formative years.”
The data used in the study was from the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey developed
by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The survey, one
of the longest ongoing school surveys in the world, contains responses from
almost 9,000 students from Grades 7-12 in publicly funded schools across Ontario. The OSDUHS
began as a drug use survey, but is now a broader study of adolescent health and
well-being. Questions about traumatic brain injury were added to the survey for
the first time in 2011.
“Many harmful behaviours in adolescence can be precursors to
addiction and mental health issues later in life,” said Dr. Robert Mann, senior
scientist at CAMH and director of the OSDUHS. “The relationship between TBI and
mental health issues is concerning and calls for greater focus on prevention
and further research on this issue. We
are seeing important links of adolescent TBI with both substance use and mental
health problems and this combination of factors is something to watch as it may
have a serious negative impact on these young people."
Dr. Ilie said the teenage years are already a turbulent time
for some, as they try to figure out who they are and what they want to be.
Since a TBI can exacerbate mental health and behavioural issues, she said
primary physicians, schools, parents and coaches need to be vigilant in
monitoring adolescents with TBI.
They study also looked at the harmful behaviours boys and
girls engaged in most at different ages.
“Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes daily or being treated
for physical injuries were three behaviours for which risk of harm changed at
different ages,” said Dr. Ilie.
This research was funded by a Canadian Institute of Health
Research Team Grant in Traumatic Brain Injury and Violence and by the Ontario
Neurotrauma Foundation. Additional funding was obtained from a grant from
AUTO21, a member of the Networks of Centres of Excellence program that is
administered and funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, in partnership
with Industry Canada,
and ongoing funding support from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term
About St. Michael's Hospital
St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all
who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education
to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care
and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the
homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of
expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li KaShing International Healthcare
Education Centre, which make up the Li KaShing Knowledge Institute, research
and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact
around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with Dr.
Adviser, Media Relations
416-864-6060 ext. 6537
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's
largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the
world's leading research centres in its field. CAMH combines clinical care,
research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform
the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues. CAMH is
fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health
Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.
For more information on OSDUHS or to interview Dr. Mann,
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
Office: 416 535 8501 x36015