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Volunteer Work and Psychological Health Following Traumatic Brain Injury

Ouellet, Marie-Christine PhD; Morin, Charles M. PhD; Lavoie, André PhD

Section Editor(s): Bell, Kathleen R. MD; Hart, Tessa PhD; Caplan, Bruce PhD, ABPP (Senior Editor); Bogner, Jennifer PhD (Associate Editor)

Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation: July-August 2009 - Volume 24 - Issue 4 - p 262–271
doi: 10.1097/HTR.0b013e3181a68b73
Focus on Clinical Research and Practice

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.

Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Research, McGill University, Montreal (Dr Ouellet), Axe de Recherche en Traumatologie et Médecine d'urgence, Centre de Recherche du Centre Hospitalier Affilié Universitaire de Québec, Québec (Dr Lavoie), and École de psychologie, Université Laval, Québec (Dr Morin), Québec, Canada.

Corresponding Author: Marie-Christine Ouellet, PhD, Axe de Recherche en Traumatologie et Médecine d'urgence, Centre de Recherche du CHAUQ, Hôpital de l'Enfant-Jésus du CHA, Pavillon Notre-Dame, Local H-042 1401, 18e Rue, Québec, Canada G1J 1Z4 (

Collection of the data and preparation of this article was supported by fellowships awarded to the first author by the Fonds de Recherche en Santé du Québec and the Fondation de l'Hôpital de l'Enfant-Jésus, Québec, Canada (Dr Ouellet).

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.