Background: Self-harm is a key risk factor for suicide and it is important to have contemporary information on the extent of risk.
Methods: Mortality follow-up to 2012 of 40,346 self-harm patients identified in the three centres of the Multicentre Study of Self-harm in England between 2000 and 2010.
Results: Nineteen per cent of deaths during the study period (N=2704) were by suicide, which occurred in 1.6% of patients (2.6% of males and 0.9% of females), during which time the risk was 49 times greater than the general population risk. Overall, 0.5% of individuals died by suicide in the first year, including 0.82% of males and 0.27% of females. While the absolute risk of suicide was greater in males, the risk relative to that in the general population was higher in females. Risk of suicide increased with age. While self-poisoning had been the most frequent method of self-harm, hanging was the most common method of subsequent suicide, particularly in males. The number of suicides was probably a considerable underestimate as there were also a large number of deaths recorded as accidents, the majority of which were poisonings, these often involving psychotropic drugs.
Limitations: The study was focussed entirely on hospital-presenting self-harm.
Conclusions: The findings underline the importance of prevention initiatives focused on the self-harm population, especially during the initial months following an episode of self-harm. Estimates using suicide and open verdicts may underestimate the true risk of suicide following self-harm; inclusion of accidental poisonings may be warranted in future risk estimates.
Keywords: Linkage study; Mortality follow-up; Self-harm; Suicide.
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