Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Location of spinal cord injury may affect mental health scores

In Brief

Location of spinal cord injury may affect mental health scores

A small study that assessed mental health in two groups of people with spinal cord injuries and a group of able-bodied people reached a counterintuitive conclusion. People with the worst spinal cord injuries reported significantly better mental health than the others.

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma recruited 30 patients with spinal cord injuries; 20 were defined as having "high" injuries, with damage at or above the T6 vertebra (the middle of the thoracic region, where the ribs connect to the spine), while 10 others had "low" injuries, located at or below T7. The investigators also evaluated 11 patients who were not disabled, who served as controls.

Although the patients with high spinal cord injuries, who were generally quadriplegic, had the worst level of physical functioning, they scored highest in vitality and in perceived emotional role in society. The investigators also found that, in the entire group, the more physically disabled patients had better overall mental health.

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