Population-based study of medically treated self-inflicted injuries

CJEM. 2004 Sep;6(5):313-20. doi: 10.1017/s148180350000957x.


Objective: Self-inflicted injury is commonly seen in emergency departments (EDs). It may be a pre-cursor to death by suicide. The objective of this study was to examine the epidemiology of self-inflicted injury presentations to EDs in the province of Alberta.

Methods: Self-inflicted injury records for the 3 fiscal years 1998/99 to 2000/01 were accessed from the Ambulatory Care Classification System, a database that captures all ED encounters in the province of Alberta. Available data for each case included demographic details, location and time of visit, diagnoses and procedures.

Results: There were 22 396 self-inflicted injury presentations to Alberta EDs during the study period. Self-inflicted injury rates were higher in females, younger patients, those on social services and those with Aboriginal treaty status. There were higher rates of return visits in the year following the self-inflicted injury than in other patient groups. Data showed regional variation. Trends could be seen in the timing of self-inflicted injury presentations by hour of day, day of week, and month of year.

Conclusions: Self-inflicted injury is common, with particularly high rates demonstrated among marginalized populations. This study provides comprehensive data on those who present with self-inflicted injuries, and can be used to guide further treatment, research and evaluation for this population.