Is the rate of child head injuries related to the current state of the economy? According to the results of a recent study, the answer is a resounding yes. Traumatic brain injuries, brain damage, and head injuries in infants and small children rose significantly during the last two years of the recession, mostly due to abusive parents and guardians who became violent under the stress of financial woes.

The head injury study, which was conducted by Dr. Rachel P. Berger, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, took place between 2007 and 2009 and focused on four major US cities across the country. The results were presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ annual meeting.

During the study, researchers tracked over 500 instances of head trauma in infants and toddlers – all caused by child abuse or shaken baby syndrome. While each city examined saw just four cases of child abuse head injuries per month before the recession, this number rose to almost 9 cases per month per city during hard economic times. While this study clearly draws a connection between head injuries, child abuse, stress, and the economy, researchers still do not know which specific aspects of the economy lead to stress (job loss, housing problems, lowered wages, etc.). Other experts in the field believe that this study may also suggest that other less trackable forms of abuse, such as domestic abuse, significantly increase during times of high economic stress.

Sixteen percent of the children who received serious head trauma during the study died of their injuries.