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Brain injury: a hidden disability

Mon 16 May 2022

Explore the full results of Headway's survey into the hidden effects of brain injury for the Action for Brain Injury Week campaign See the hidden me.

An acquired brain injury (ABI) can be caused by an injury or illness and can take many different forms, including a traumatic brain injury, stroke, meningitis, brain tumour, among others. The effects can be varied, ranging from physical, emotional, cognitive (thinking and information processing) and behavioural. Many of these common effects are non-visible, leading to ABI being considered in many cases as a ‘hidden disability’. Frustratingly for many brain injury survivors and their carers, anecdotal evidence suggests that this ‘hidden’ nature of brain injury often leads to a lack of appropriate understanding and support being offered.

Our Action for Brain Injury Week 2022 campaign, See the hidden me, aims to explore this further in order to raise awareness of brain injury being a hidden disability. We hope that the findings from this report and other campaign activities in this area will help others to understand the non-visible, albeit life-changing impact of sustaining an ABI.

In February 2022, we launched a survey to explore the feelings and experiences of those affected by ABI around brain injury being a hidden disability. The survey was designed to be completed by brain injury survivors or anyone caring for someone with a brain injury (partners, family members, friends, etc).

We advertised the survey via our website, social media and Headway’s network of groups and branches across the UK. Electronic and paper copies of the survey were available.

The survey was completed by 2,682 respondents, providing a large sample to gain an accurate picture of the emotions and challenges of living with a hidden disability.

Survey results

•	76% of brain injury survivors experience daily problems as a direct consequence of their brain injury being hidden  Brain injury makes you feel, frustrated, misunderstood, vulnerable. •	67% of brain injury survivors have at some point struggled with understanding the effects of their own brain injury. •	86% of people affected by brain injury (survivors and carers) felt that a lack of understanding from society is one of the main challenges to living life with a hidden disability. •	70% of carers felt that their relationships with others have been negatively affected as a direct consequence of the effects of brain injury being hidden

Download the full study report in the 'Related Resources' section below.


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