Volunteer Work and Psychological Health Following Traumatic Brain Injury

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Abstract

Objectives

To compare the long-term psychological functioning of 3 groups of survivors of traumatic brain injury (TBI): (1) those who report being regularly active either by working or studying, (2) those who are not competitively employed but are active volunteers, and (3) those who report neither working, studying, nor volunteering.

Participants and Procedure

Two hundred eight participants aged 16 years and older with minor to severe TBI were classified as (1) Working/Studying (N = 78), (2) Volunteering (N = 54), or (3) Nonactive (N = 76).

Main Outcome Measures

Measures of psychological distress (anxiety, depression, cognitive disturbance, irritability/anger), fatigue, sleep disturbance, and perception of pain.

Results

Survivors of TBI who report being active through work, studies, or volunteering demonstrate a significantly higher level of psychological adjustment than persons who report no activity. Even among participants who are unable to return to work and are declared on long-term disability leave, those who report engaging in volunteer activities present significantly better psychological functioning than participants who are nonactive.

Conclusion

Volunteering is associated with enhanced psychological well-being and should be encouraged following TBI.

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