Family support hastens recovery

Family ties are key for successful recovery from injuries that can lead to temporary or permanent disability.


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Strong family ties improve our ability to recover from serious injuries, according to new research from KAIMRC. 

Injuries, primarily from road traffic accidents, are the second leading cause of death in Saudi Arabia. Although mortality rates are declining due to improved treatment, the number of people discharged with some form of disability is rising. “Identifying the factors that affect recovery from long-term disability after injury is crucial to guide planning for interventions aimed at improving trauma outcomes,” says KAIMRC researcher, Sarah Almarwani. 

Previous studies have identified a range of factors that influence rehabilitation after injury, including age, type of disability and family support. To gain insight into the role of family cohesion in patient recovery in Saudi Arabia, Almarwani and her colleagues interviewed 249 adults who were hospitalised at the King Abdulaziz Medical City following blunt trauma. 

In the first interview, the researchers asked patients in the hospital about their occupation, income, marital status and quality of life before the injury, using the validated EQ-5D-5L disability scale. In addition, a family support scale was used to measure the strength of the relationship between the patient and their immediate family and to assess family cohesion. The researchers determined the extent of recovery through a follow-up interview conducted three months after discharge

They found that patients with poor family cohesion reported greater disability in the first interview. These patients reported more pain, difficulties with mobility and self-care, and an inability to perform usual activities, such as driving and house chores, as well as significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety compared to those with stronger family ties.

After three months, 165 patients responded to the follow-up interview. Most of them (88%) continued to report disability, with approximately 75% reporting pain or discomfort and 50% reporting difficulties in performing usual activities. However, patients with poor family cohesion were significantly less likely to recover from depression or experience improvements in mobility, regardless of age, sex or length of hospitalization.

“Our results are consistent with other studies showing that strong family support has a positive impact on both physical and mental recovery after injury,” Almarwani says.

By identifying patients with suboptimal family cohesion in hospital, it may be possible to offer them additional support and counselling aimed at strengthening emotional ties with family members to help improve their recovery.

In light of the findings, Almarwani calls for more investment in the prevention of road traffic accidents; increased awareness among health care providers about the role of family cohesion and mental health in post trauma care; and more rehabilitation centres and public health guidelines to decrease the burden of injuries.


  1. Almarwani, S. M., et al. The association between family cohesion and disability following blunt trauma: findings from a level-I trauma center in Saudi Arabia. Injury epidemiology, 7, 40 (2020)

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