A significant number of burns and deaths from fire are intentionally wrought. Rates of intentional burns are unevenly distributed throughout the world; India has a particularly high rate in young women whereas in Europe rates are higher in men in mid-life. Data from hospitalized burn patients worldwide reveal incidence rates for assault by fire and scalds ranging from 3% to 10%. The average proportion of the body surface area burned in an assault by fire or scalds is approximately 20%. In different parts of the world, attempted burning of others or oneself can be attributed to different motives. Circumstances under which assaults occur fall largely into the categories of interpersonal conflict, including spousal abuse, elder abuse, or interactions over contentious business transactions. Contributing social factors to assaults by burning include drug and alcohol abuse, non-constructive use of leisure time, non-participation in religious and community activities, unstable relationships, and extramarital affairs. Although the incidence of self-mutilation and suicide attempts by burning are relatively low, deliberate self-harm carries a significant risk of death, with an overall mortality rate of 65% worldwide. In those who resort to self-immolation, circumstantial themes reflect domestic discord, family dysfunction, and the social ramifications of unemployment. Preventing injurious burn-related violence requires a multifaceted approach, including legislation and enforcement, education, and advocacy. Better standardized assessment tools are needed to screen for risks of abuse and for psychiatric disorders in perpetrators.
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