Can brain injury make you happier? Does the resulting happiness increase with the severity of the injury?
Psychologists investigating the well-being of patients with an acquired brain injury (ABI) have documented a curious phenomenon, whereby the more serious a person’s brain injury, the higher their self-reported life-satisfaction.
Perhaps the most curious finding was that participants who’d sustained more serious injuries tended to report being more satisfied with their lives. This association was mediated by the social and identity factors – that is, participants who’d sustained a more serious injury also tended to identify more strongly as a survivor, and to have more social support and improved relationships.
‘Sustaining a head injury does not always lead to a deterioration in one’s quality of life,’ the researchers concluded. ‘…[D]ata from this study serves to tell a coherent story about the way in which the quality of life of those who experience ABIs can be enhanced by the personal and social “identity work” that these injuries require them to perform. … Nietzsche, then, was correct to observe that that which does not kill us can make us stronger.’
You can read the full discussion of the study at BPS Research Digest here.