Health outcomes of traumatic brain injury among refugee survivors of torture

Eva Keatley, Alana D'Alfonso, Christopher Abeare, Allen Keller, Nathan S. Bertelsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


To compare spontaneous reporting of health complaints in a sample of refugee survivors of torture with a history of moderate/severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) with survivors of torture without TBI and analyze the contribution of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms to health outcomes. Participants: Treatment-seeking refugee survivors of torture with a moderate/severe TBI (n = 85) and a control group (n = 72) of survivors who suffered a physical injury during their persecution but had no history of a head injury. Measures: Health outcomes included a self-report of general physical health (scale 1-5), number of medical visits, and a scaled score of the number of health complaints. The Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) was used to measure posttraumatic stress disorder. Results: Moderate/severe TBI was associated with more health complaints but not higher HTQ scores. TBI and HTQ scores are independently associated with a greater number of health complaints, and an interaction between TBI and HTQ scores suggests that the relationship between moderate/severe TBI and the number of health complaints strengthened with increased posttraumatic stress disorder symptom severity. Conclusions: Health complaints may be a common expression of psychological trauma, and service providers should be certain to explore both medical and psychological contributors when assessing refugee survivors of torture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1-E8
JournalJournal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 3 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2015 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • PCS
  • PTSD
  • Refugees
  • TBI


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