Background: There is a lack of consensus about whether self-harm with suicidal intent differs in aetiology and prognosis from non-suicidal self-harm, and whether they should be considered as different diagnostic categories.
Method: Participants were 4799 members of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a UK population-based birth cohort who completed a postal questionnaire on self-harm with and without suicidal intent at age 16 years. Multinomial logistic regression analyses were used to examine differences in the risk factor profiles of individuals who self-harmed with and without suicidal intent.
Results: Many risk factors were common to both behaviours, but associations were generally stronger in relation to suicidal self-harm. This was particularly true for mental health problems; compared to those with non-suicidal self-harm, those who had harmed with suicidal intent had an increased risk of depression (OR 3.50[95% CI 1.64, 7.43]) and anxiety disorder (OR 3.50[95% CI 1.72, 7.13]). Higher IQ and maternal education were risk factors for non-suicidal self-harm but not suicidal self-harm. Risk factors that appeared specific to suicidal self-harm included lower IQ and socioeconomic position, physical cruelty to children in the household and parental self-harm.
Limitations: i) There was some loss to follow-up, ii) difficulty in measuring suicidal intent, iii) we cannot rule out the possibility of reverse causation for some exposure variables, iv) we were unable to identify the subgroup that had only ever harmed with suicidal intent.
Conclusion: Self-harm with and without suicidal intent are overlapping behaviours but with some distinct characteristics, indicating the importance of fully exploring vulnerability factors, motivations, and intentions in adolescents who self harm.
Keywords: ALSPAC; Adolescent; Longitudinal; Self-harm; Suicide attempt.
Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.