Hospital management of self-harm patients and risk of repetition: systematic review and meta-analysis

J Affect Disord. 2014 Oct:168:476-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2014.06.027. Epub 2014 Jun 21.


Background: Self-harm is a common reason for hospital presentation; however, evidence to guide clinical management of these patients to reduce their risk of repeat self-harm and suicide is lacking.

Methods: We undertook a systematic review to investigate whether between study differences in reported clinical management of self-harm patients were associated with the risk of repeat self-harm and suicide.

Results: Altogether 64 prospective studies were identified that described the clinical care of self-harm patients and the incidence of repeat self-harm and suicide. The proportion of a cohort psychosocially assessed was not associated with the recorded incidence of repeat self-harm or suicide; the incidence of repeat self-harm was 16.7% (95% CI 13.8-20.1) in studies in the lowest tertile of assessment levels and 19.0% (95% CI 15.7-23.0) in the highest tertile. There was no association of repeat self-harm with differing levels of hospital admission (n=47 studies) or receiving specialist follow-up (n=12 studies). In studies reporting on levels of hospital admission and suicide (n=5), cohorts where a higher proportion of patients were admitted to a hospital bed reported a lower incidence of subsequent suicide (0.6%, 95% CI 0.5-0.8) compared to cohorts with lower levels of admission (1.9%, 95% CI 1.1-3.2).

Limitations: In some analyses power was limited due to the small number of studies reporting the exposures of interest. Case mix and aspects of care are likely to vary between studies.

Discussion: There is little clear evidence to suggest routine aspects of self-harm patient care, including psychosocial assessment, reduce the risk of subsequent suicide and repeat self-harm.

Keywords: Mental health; Meta-analysis; Meta-regression; Repetition; Self-harm; Suicide.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Recurrence
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / prevention & control
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / therapy*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide Prevention