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Risks and Concerns Regarding Traumatic Brain Injury

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, adults 65 and older have the greatest risk of being hospitalized and dying from traumatic brain injury (TBI), with men being at greater risk of hospitalization and three times more likely to die from TBI than women. A new AARP Research survey among adults 18 and older explores their familiarity and experiences with TBI.

spinner image Doctor reviewing brain scans

A bump, blow, or jolt to the head or an object piercing the skull are among the causes of a traumatic brain injury. TBI, while serious, is relatively uncommon. Among those having experienced a TBI, 27% have had more than one TBI, 29% had a mild TBI, 22% a moderate one, and 25% a severe one.

Adults take head injuries seriously. Following a head injury, most sought medical attention, although 36% chose not to do so. As for the majority who did, 29% went to the ER on their own and 15% called an ambulance, while others sought help at an urgent care facility or through their health care practitioner. Of those seeking help, 46% sought attention the same day and 43% immediately.

Those who experienced a TBI are likely to have lingering symptoms:

  • Memory problems (61%)
  • Trouble concentrating (53%)
  • Sleep issues (42%)
  • Headaches (35%)
  • Nausea (7%)

Adults take TBI seriously not just when they get one, but in considering the possibility of having one. Some 31% of respondents note they would visit an ER after a fall down the stairs, with those 55 and older (39%) being the most likely.

Meanwhile, they are less concerned about getting a TBI from a fall — despite falls being a leading cause. The report suggests that the connection between falling and TBI may not be well understood. And despite men being more likely to get a TBI, and die from one, they are less worried about getting one and are less interested in learning how to reduce their risk of falling. The report concludes that it may be prudent to target men with more information on TBI.

More adults from multicultural communities are worried about getting a TBI from a fall or from a car wreck. Black adults, Hispanic/Latino adults, and Asian American adults are more likely to be extremely or very worried about getting a TBI from a fall or from a car wreck than adults overall and white adults.

Adults are generally interested in learning how to reduce risk, but interest varies by some demographic characteristics. Overall, one-third (34%) of adults 18-plus are interested in learning how to prevent a TBI and one-quarter are interested in learning how to reduce their risk of falling (26%). But Black adults, Hispanic/Latino adults, and Asian American adults are more interested in both, as are women and adults 65-plus.


This AARP Research study was conducted online July 21–27, 2023 to explore knowledge of and experience with head injuries. Sample n=3,019.

For more information, please contact Laura Mehegan at For media inquiries, contact External Relations at