Traumatic Brain Injury Increases Unemployment Rates in Veterans

Traumatic brain injury increases unemployment rates in veterans but does not affect divorce rates.

WASHINGTON — Veterans who suffer from deployment-related traumatic brain injury (D-TBI) are more likely to be unemployed than veterans without traumatic brain injury (TBI), according to data presented at the American Headache Society Annual Scientific Meeting in Washington, D.C.

TBI is a common issue for deployed soldiers, affecting 15% to 20% of soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. In this study, the researchers investigated if the psychosocial effects of TBI affected employment and marital status of veterans with D-TBI.

“In addition to the medical and headache aspects that TBI produces, we sought to determine if TBI produces psychosocial problems that may impair employment and marital relationships,” said study researcher James R. Couch, MD, of the University of Oklahoma Medical School.  

The study included 67 veterans with D-TBI and 67 matched controls without TBI who were part of Operation New Dawn (OND), a VA program for deployed veterans. The researchers interviewed each participant about their marital status, employment status, post-concussion symptoms, headache status, depression symptoms, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Of the participants with D-TBI, 39 were 2-7 years post-TBI and 28 were 8-11 years post-TBI.

For participants 2-7 years post-TBI, 35.9% were unemployed compared with 10.3% of their matched controls. For participants 8-11 years post-TBI, 50.0% were unemployed compared with 7.1% of their matched controls.

Divorce rates were 31% for participants 2-7 years post-TBI and 25% for participants 8-11 years post-TBI, compared with 26% and 21% for their respective controls. These did not represent a statistically significant difference.

The researchers did not find any significant differences between D-TBI participants and controls in terms of associations of frequency of headache or severity of TBI with marital or employment status.


  1. Couch J et al. Abstract 88641: Effect of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Injury headache on employment and marital status of Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars and comparison to deployed controls without TBI. Presented at: American Headache Society Annual Scientific Meeting; June 18-21, 2015; Washington, D.C.