People who self-harm are three times as likely to die prematurely often due to poor physical health

September 17, 2012

People who have a history of self-harm are more than three times as likely to die prematurely as the general population, and not just from the obvious causes, with deaths due to natural causes at least two times greater than anticipated and the risk also much higher for individuals living in socially deprived areas, according to a UK study published Online First in The Lancet.

Led by Keith Hawton from the University of Oxford Centre for Suicide Research, the study looked at over 30 000 individuals who attended emergency departments in Oxford, Manchester, and Derby after self-poisoning or self-injury between 2000 and 2007. The causes of and years of life lost (YLL) were assessed and compared with the general population. Associations with were also tested using residential postcodes.

Roughly 6% (1832) of patients died during the median 6 year course of follow up. Death from both natural and external causes (suicides, accidental poisonings, and accidents other than poisoning) was substantially increased for both men and women, equating to an average of at least 30 YLL by each individual.

Accidental poisoning was the most common cause of premature death followed by suicide. However, the researchers found that deaths due to natural causes were 2 to 7.5 times greater than expected, with diseases of the digestive (largely alcohol related) and circulatory systems and mental and (87% of these due to psychoactive substance abuse) the largest contributors.

What is more, the risk of early death from natural causes (but not external causes) was closely linked with , increasing with greater .

"Our study confirms that the increase in premature death among people who self-harm is not limited to suicide or other external causes, but includes dying prematurely from a wide variety of natural causes such as diseases of the circulatory and digestive systems which accounted for a third of deaths in our study", says Hawton. "Our findings have significant public health implications, and emphasise the importance of assessing physical health as well as psychosocial problems as part of standard checks when individuals present with self-harm."

Writing in a linked Comment, Eric Caine from the University of Rochester Medical Center in the USA says, "[This research highlights that] although review of risk and protective factors for imminent, potentially fatal suicide attempts is essential, assessment of the nature of people's lives—ie, appraisal of the broad contexts of their actions, social and interpersonal struggles, behaviours, and basic medical problems—is equally important…[and] should encourage policy makers to look for new models of service delivery to meet patients' diverse needs."

Explore further: Suicide risk for older people who self-harm

More information: www.thelancet.com/journals/lan … (12)61141-6/abstract

Related Stories

Suicide risk for older people who self-harm

May 2, 2012
Older people who self-harm are at much greater risk of suicide than both the general population and younger adults who self-harm, a new study has found. Researchers from The University of Manchester studied 1,177 people over ...

Fall in deaths involving painkiller co-proxamol after drug withdrawn in UK

May 8, 2012
During the six years following the withdrawal of the analgesic co-proxamol in the UK in 2005, there was a major reduction in poisoning deaths involving this drug, without apparent significant increase in deaths involving ...

Living alone is associated with an increased risk of alcohol-related deaths

September 20, 2011
Living alone is associated with an increased risk of alcohol-related mortality—from alcohol-related diseases and accidents—according to a Finnish study published in this week's PLoS Medicine, suggesting that a lack ...

Mortality gap for people with serious mental illness is increasing

September 14, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- People with serious mental illnesses in England are not seeing the improvement in death rates the rest of the population is experiencing, a study led by Oxford University has found.

Recommended for you

Probing how Americans think about mental life

October 20, 2017
When Stanford researchers asked people to think about the sensations and emotions of inanimate or non-human entities, they got a glimpse into how those people think about mental life.

Itsy bitsy spider: Fear of spiders and snakes is deeply embedded in us

October 19, 2017
Snakes and spiders evoke fear and disgust in many people, even in developed countries where hardly anybody comes into contact with them. Until now, there has been debate about whether this aversion is innate or learnt. Scientists ...

Dutch courage—Alcohol improves foreign language skills

October 18, 2017
A new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University and King's College London, shows that bilingual speakers' ability to speak a second ...

Inflamed support cells appear to contribute to some kinds of autism

October 18, 2017
Modeling the interplay between neurons and astrocytes derived from children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil, say innate ...

Study suggests psychedelic drugs could reduce criminal behavior

October 18, 2017
Classic psychedelics such as psilocybin (often called magic mushrooms), LSD and mescaline (found in peyote) are associated with a decreased likelihood of antisocial criminal behavior, according to new research from investigators ...

Taking probiotics may reduce postnatal depression

October 18, 2017
Researchers from the University of Auckland and Otago have found evidence that a probiotic given in pregnancy can help prevent or treat symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.