Epidemiology of intentional self-harm presenting to four district health boards in New Zealand over 12 months, and comparison with official data

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2009 Jul;43(7):659-65. doi: 10.1080/00048670902970833.


Objective: The aim of the present study was to describe the number and characteristics of people presenting with intentional self-harm to four district health boards in New Zealand and to compare this with official data.

Methods: People presenting with self-harm were identified by searching a mixture of electronic and written databases in each DHB.

Results: Over 12 months 1633 people presented a total of 2087 times to these four DHBs. The highest rates were in Northland, young women and Maori. Official figures significantly underestimate the number of people who present to hospital with intentional self-harm.

Conclusion: Considerably more people present to hospital with intentional self-harm in New Zealand than are recorded by official figures. This is important because reducing self-harm is a key part of the New Zealand health strategy. To achieve this, accurate measurement of self-harm rates is required. Encouraging improved reporting by DHBs is unlikely to work. It is suggested that dedicated monitoring sites be set up in representative DHBs to solve the problem of flawed official data collection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Catchment Area, Health
  • Child
  • Data Collection
  • Emergency Services, Psychiatric
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / ethnology*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult