Cost-effectiveness of brief cognitive behaviour therapy versus treatment as usual in recurrent deliberate self-harm: a decision-making approach

Psychol Med. 2003 Aug;33(6):977-86. doi: 10.1017/s0033291703008183.


Background: Deliberate self-harm can be costly, in terms of treatment and subsequent suicide. Any intervention that reduces episodes of self-harm might therefore have a major impact on the costs incurred by service providers and the productivity losses due to illness or premature death.

Method: Four hundred and eighty patients with a history of recurrent deliberate self-harm were randomized to manual-assisted cognitive behaviour therapy (MACT) or treatment as usual. Economic data were collected from patients at baseline, 6 and 12 months, and these data were complete for 397 patients. Incremental cost-effectiveness was explored using the primary outcome measure, proportion of patients having a repeat episode of deliberate self-harm, and quality of life. The uncertainty surrounding costs and effects was represented using cost-effectiveness acceptability curves.

Results: Differences in total cost per patient were statistically significant at 6 months in favour of MACT (pounds sterling -897, 95 % CI -1747 to -48, P=0.04), but these differences did not remain significant at 12 months (pounds sterling -838, 95% CI -2142 to 466, P=0.21). Nevertheless, exploration of the uncertainty surrounding these estimates suggests there is >90% probability that MACT is a more cost-effective strategy for reducing the recurrence of deliberate self-harm in this population over 1 year than treatment as usual. The results for quality of life were not conclusive.

Conclusion: Cost-effectiveness acceptability curves demonstrate that, based on the evidence currently available, to reject MACT on traditional grounds of statistical significance and to continue funding current practice has <10% chance of being the correct decision in terms of cost-effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / economics*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Recurrence
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / economics*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / rehabilitation
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / therapy*