Exploratory analysis of long-term physical and mental health morbidity and mortality: A comparison of individuals with self-inflicted versus non-self-inflicted burn injuries

Burns. 2020 May;46(3):531-538. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2019.09.003. Epub 2019 Oct 20.


Introduction: Self-inflicted burn (SIB) injuries are relatively rare, but patients may experience complex biopsychosocial challenges. This study aimed to compare long-term physical and psychological outcomes for individuals with SIB and non-SIB injuries.

Methods: Records of adult SIB (n = 125) and non-SIB (n = 3604) injuries were collected from U.S. burn centers within the Burn Model System between 1993 and 2018. Assessments were administered at discharge, 6 months, 24 months, 5 years, and 10 years.

Results: SIB patients were more often younger, unmarried, unemployed, male, struggling with pre-morbid psychiatric issues, and injured by fire/flame (all p < 0.001). SIB injury predicted prolonged mechanical ventilation, hospitalization, and rehabilitation (all p < 0.001). After injury, SIB patients had increased anxiety at 24 months (p = 0.0294), increased suicidal ideation at 5 years (p = 0.004), and clinically worse depression at 10 years (p = 0.0695). SIB patients had increased mortality across 24 months compared to non-SIB patients (OR = 4.706, p = 0.010).

Conclusion: SIB injuries are associated with worse physical and psychological outcomes compared to non-SIB injuries including complicated hospitalizations and chronic problems with anxiety, depression, suicidality, and mortality, even when controlling for common indicators of severity such as burn size. This underscores the importance of multidisciplinary treatment, including mental healthcare, and long-term follow-up for SIB patients. Identified pre-morbid risk factors indicate the need for targeted injury prevention.

Keywords: Burn injury; Long-Term; Morbidity; Mortality; Psychiatric; Self-Inflicted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.