Objective: The authors examined national trends from 1990 to 2000 in the utilization of community hospital inpatient services by young people (5-20 years of age) with intentional self-inflicted injuries.
Method: Discharge abstracts from a nationally representative sample of community hospitals were analyzed, with a focus on youth discharges (N=10,831) with a diagnosis of intentional self-inflicted injury (ICD-9-CM: E950-E959). Census data were used to derive national population-based rates of self-inflicted injuries requiring inpatient treatment. Overall population-based trends in hospitalizations for self-inflicted injury were calculated and stratified by gender and age. Among youths hospitalized with a self-inflicted injury, trends were also calculated for length of stay, inpatient costs, method of injury, and associated mental disorder diagnoses.
Results: The annual hospitalization rate of youths with self-inflicted injuries declined from 49.1 per 100,000 in 1990 to 44.9 per 100,000 in 2000, and the mean length of inpatient stay significantly declined from 3.6 days to 2.7 days. Among the hospitalized patients, there were increases in the rate of cutting (4.3% to 13.2%) and ingestion of acetaminophen (22.1% to 26.9%), antidepressants (10.0% to 14.0%), and opiates (2.3% to 3.3%) as a cause of injury, whereas there were decreases in the ingestion of salicylates (14.9% to 10.2%) and barbiturates (1.5% to 0.7%). There were significant increases in the proportion of subjects with primary mental disorder discharge diagnoses of depressive disorder (29.2% to 46.0%), bipolar disorder (1.3% to 8.2%), and substance use disorder (5.4% to 10.7%) and significant decreases in the rate of adjustment disorders (22.2% to 11.4%) and nonmental disorders (31.9% to 13.6%). After excluding cutting, which may be more closely related to self-mutilation than suicidal self-injury, the annual hospitalization rate of youths with self-inflicted injuries declined from 47.2 per 100,000 in 1990 to 39.4 per 100,000 in 2000.
Conclusions: Over the decade of study, young people admitted to community hospitals with self-inflicted injuries tended to have more severe psychiatric diagnoses and to be treated during shorter inpatient stays. These trends suggest that the role of youth inpatient care has narrowed, becoming focused on those with severe psychiatric disorders.