Whiplash affects people with different conditions in different ways. For that reason, the amount of damage caused by whiplash varies greatly from person to person. Similarly, it affects people differently at different times in their lives, and more vulnerable people may find that they are eligible for more compensation.

A generation gap

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Young Children

Significantly younger children have weak spines. This is a fact that should not come as much of a shock, as in general younger children are more vulnerable and do need more protection from the rough and tumble of the world.

Children between the ages of one and six have spines with, roughly speaking, between a sixth and a third of the strength of an adult spine1. Surprisingly, this doesn’t make them more susceptible to whiplash2. Instead, children seem to have a relatively low ‘risk profile’ which grows as the children approach puberty.

Although this could easily be due to the way children are built when compared to post-adolescents, it could also be due to under-reporting of whiplash injuries in children.

A child of this age is less likely to have an idea of the importance of symptoms, and is very unlikely to tie the symptoms to the recent car crash they were in, meaning it’s often up to the tired, overworked parent to attempt to diagnose their child – usually without any formal medical training.

A delay in diagnosis of whiplash can be especially harmful to children of this age, who will not be able to manage their whiplash appropriately. It will certainly harm your chances of getting compensation for your child’s whiplash.

Find out more about whiplash in young children, and the compensation you might expect to receive.

Adolescents & Young Adults

Older children, teenagers, adolescents and young adults are all at an elevated risk of suffering whiplash3.

Young adults (aged between 20 and 24) are the most likely to experience whiplash in terms of raw numbers, although this is possibly because they are statistically involved in more accidents. Along the same lines, teenagers aged between 15 and 19 are at the most risk of whiplash per mile travelled.

The teenage years and young adulthood are an important time for mental health, when lifelong mental health problems can develop. In fact, over half of all adults with mental health problems were initially diagnosed during childhood, with the majority of mental health problems developing during these years4. This makes the association between whiplash and depression or severe anxiety particularly troublesome for this demographic.

Older Adults

Older adults are at particular risk of more serious whiplash injury when they are injured. Women aged over 60 are at particular risk of experiencing prolonged recovery from whiplash.

The scale of this difference is staggering – a 1541% increase in average recovery time from the group with the shortest recovery time, young males. That’s a comparison of a median recovery time of 17 days for young men and a median recovery time of 262 days for old women5.

This is partly because of higher incidence of arthritis among the elderly, which as we’ve discussed in our other posts is a potential complicating factor for whiplash, but it’s also due to a number of other unpredictable factors that accompany ageing.

What does this mean for me?

That depends on who you are!

Seriously, that is the takeaway here – the risk and damage from whiplash varies dramatically depending on who you are.  Just because your next-door neighbour or distant cousin or boss claims that they shrugged off whiplash after a week doesn’t mean that your injuries aren’t more serious.

Find out more about whiplash, and what your compensation might look like, using the Quick Claim Enquiry form on the right.



1. Yoganandan N, Pintar FA, Kumaresan S, Gennarelli TA, Sun E, Kuppa S, Maltese M, Eppinger RH: Pediatric and small female neck injury scale factors and tolerance based on human spine biomechanical characteristics. International Research Council on the Biomechanics of ImpactConference Proceedings, Montpellier, France, September 20th, 2000

2. Lövsund P, Nygren A, Salen B, Tingvall C: Neck injuries in rear end collisions among front and rear seat occupants. International Council on the Biomechanics of Impacts Conference, Bergisch-Gladbach, Germany,  September 14th 1988

3. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001457502001100

4. Kim-Cohen, J., Caspi, A., Moffitt, TE., et al (2003): Prior juvenile diagnoses in adults with mental disorder. Archives of general psychiatry, Vol 60, pp.709-717.

5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12879136