Brain Injury Facts

Brain Injury by the Numbers

How Prevalent is Brain Injury?

The incidence of acquired brain injury outnumbers breast cancer, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS combined.


  • Over 1.5 million Canadians live with a brain injury.
  • There are 165,00 brain injuries sustained in Canada every year.
  • Every 3 minutes someone in Canada sustains a brain injury.

British Columbia

  • 180,000 British Columbians live with a brain injury.
  • There are 22,000 new brain injuries in British Columbia every year.
  • Every day there are 60 new cases of brain injury in British Columbia.

The incidence of brain injury is reaching epidemic proportions. Yet funding, resources, awareness, and research are not keeping pace with these rates.


Brain Injury and Mental Health

  • People who have traumatic brain injuries (TBI) may be nearly twice as likely to die by suicide as individuals who don’t have a history of TBI. The risk increase is greatest in the first six months after initial treatment for brain injury.
  • More than 60% of people with a traumatic brain injury experience depression and anxiety even years after injury.


Brain Injury and Substance Use

  • Approximately one-third of those who experience traumatic brain injury have a history of substance abuse prior to their injury.
  • Twenty percent of people who do not have a substance abuse problem become vulnerable to substance abuse after a brain injury.
  • Substance use increases the risk of sustaining another brain injury.


Brain Injury and Criminal Behaviour

  • Canadians who have suffered a traumatic brain injury are 2.5 times more likely to be federally incarcerated. However, experts estimate that half of those who suffer brain trauma never seek medical care. This means their injuries go undetected and are not included in studies.
  • Studies around the world have shown that between 50 and 80% of the prison population has experienced a traumatic brain injury.
  • Brain injury, mental illness, and substance misuse are all overrepresented in the prison population.
  • Brain injury in early life is a risk factor for offending in later life.


Brain Injury and Homelessness

  • In one Toronto study, nearly 50% of homeless men had suffered at least one traumatic brain injury.  87% of these injuries occurred prior to them becoming homeless.


Brain Injury Can Happen to Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is a disruption in brain function that occurs after birth. It isn't hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma.

Traumatic Brain Injury - an injury to the brain caused by an external source such as:

  • a motor vehicle collision
  • a fall
  • a sports-related injury
  • an assault

Non-traumatic Brain Injury - an internal injury to the brain which can be the result of:

  • a stroke, aneurysm, brain bleed
  • brain tumour, infection
  • substance use, ingesting other toxins
  • oxygen deprivation (e.g. near-drowning or overdose)
Brain-Injury -Anyone-Anywhere-Anytime

Impact of Acquired Brain Injury

Every brain injury is unique. Each person sustaining a brain injury may be affected differently depending on the location of the injury, its severity, any history of previous brain injuries, and age.

Brain injury can cause a wide range of changes which may include:


  • more time needed to process information
  • difficulty completing daily tasks
  • difficulty communicating
  • difficulty with memory, reasoning
  • difficulty concentrating
  • impulsivity


  • headaches
  • sensitivity to light/sound
  • nausea/vomiting
  • loss of coordination or balance
  • vision impairment
  • chronic pain
  • fatigue
  • dizziness; vertigo
  • seizures


  • personality changes
  • irritability; anger
  • mood swings
  • social inappropriateness
  • denial
  • sadness; anxiety; depression
  • showing little emotion
  • loss of sense of self


  • impulsivity
  • engaging in risky behaviour
  • social inappropriateness
  • difficulty with relationships
  • changes in sleep pattern
  • social isolation
  • changes in personality

The impact of ABI is also felt by the family/caregivers. They, too, must adjust to the changes and challenges of post-injury life.

An Invisible Injury

Brain injury is an invisible injury. On the outside, people with a brain injury can appear to be fully recovered. Meanwhile, they are still struggling internally with the effects of their injuryThis can result in others expecting more of them than they can give. 

Recovery can be a long - sometimes lifelong -  journey. Those with brain injury will respond to being treated with patience, respect, and encouragement.