Asthma and self-harm: a population-based cohort study in Taiwan

J Psychosom Res. 2014 Dec;77(6):462-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2014.08.017. Epub 2014 Sep 6.


Objective: Few studies have investigated the relationship between asthma and suicidality-related outcomes in the world. We sought to investigate the association between asthma and risk of non-fatal self-harm in a large national sample.

Methods: Cases aged 10years and over were identified from Taiwan's National Health Insurance Research Database with a new primary diagnosis of asthma (ICD-9:493) between 2000 and 2008. Case status required the presence of any inpatient diagnosis of asthma and/or at least two recorded diagnoses and 1year duration of asthma in outpatient services. These 27,781 cases were compared to 138,905 sex- and age-matched controls and both groups were followed until end of 2008 for instances of self-harm, defined as ICD-9 codes E950-E959 (self-harm causes) and E980-E989 (undetermined causes). Competing risk adjusted Cox regression analyses were applied, adjusting for sex, age, residence (urban/rural), insurance premium, episode of psychiatric disease, montelukast, Charlson comorbidity index and mortality.

Results: Of the 166,686 subjects, 445 carried out self-harm during a mean (SD) follow-up period of 5.84 (2.35) years. Asthma (hazard ratio=1.70, 95% CI: 1.35-2.14), age, residence, episode of psychiatric disease and Charlson comorbidity index were independent risks on self-harm in the fully adjusted model.

Conclusions: Asthma was associated with increased risk of self-harm in this population, independent of a number of potential confounding factors including montelukast use. This reinforces the need to consider mental health in routine asthma care, and to consider asthma as a potentially important stressor in people with comorbid mental disorder.

Keywords: Asthma; Charlson comorbidity index; Psychiatric disease; Self-harm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Assessment
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / etiology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Taiwan / epidemiology