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Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2009 Jan;90(1):95-101. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2008.07.012.

Behavioral risk factors of mortality after spinal cord injury.

Author information

  • 1Dept of Health Sciences and Research, College of Health Professions, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC 29425, USA. krause@musc.edu



To test hypothesized relationships between multiple behavioral indicators and mortality among persons with spinal cord injury (SCI), while controlling for biographic and injury characteristics.


Prospective cohort study with behavioral data collected by mailed survey in late 1997 and early 1998. Mortality status was ascertained as of December 31, 2005.


A large rehabilitation hospital in the southeastern United States.


Adults (N=1386) with traumatic SCI, at least 1 year postinjury.


Not applicable.


Primary outcome was time from survey to mortality or censoring. Mortality status was determined using the National Death Index and the Social Security Death Index. There were 224 deaths (16.2%) in the full sample, and due to missing data, 188 deaths were observed in the 1251 participants included in the final statistical model.


Cox proportional hazards modeling identified several significant behavioral predictors of mortality. In the first set of analyses, the significance of a single behavioral variable was assessed while controlling for biographic and injury predictors. We subsequently built a comprehensive model based on an optimal group of behaviors. The best set of behavioral predictors included: smoking, binge drinking (number of episodes with 5 or more drinks), prescription medication use, and number of hours out of bed per day. Inclusion of these variables improved prediction of survival compared with biographic and injury variables alone, as the pseudo-R2 increased from .121 to .164 and the concordance from .730 to .769.


The results affirm the importance of avoiding basic risk behaviors, such as smoking and alcohol misuse, and affirm their importance as targets of intervention in association with SCI rehabilitation.

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