When a senior is hurt in a car accident, the aftereffects linger far longer than for a younger person injured in a similar crash.

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A study from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill found that 26 percent of older adults treated and released by a hospital emergency department after a crash were still reporting moderate to severe pain six months after the accident. The persistent discomfort had an enormously destructive effect on their lives, causing "a negative spiral of pain and disability" and a decline in physical functioning. Some had to give up independent living. The study noted that a typical younger person sustaining the same types of injuries would have recovered "relatively quickly."

The study was published last month in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.