Premature Death Rate Higher in People Who Self-Harm

Death rate higher from both natural and external causes

TUESDAY, Sept. 18 (HealthDay News) -- People who self-harm have over three-fold higher rates of premature death, from both natural and external causes, according to a study published online Sept. 18 in The Lancet.

Helen Bergen, Ph.D., from the University of Oxford Centre for Suicide Research in the United Kingdom, and colleagues examined mortality and years of life lost in 30,950 individuals presenting to emergency departments for self-harm from 2000 to 2007.

After a median of six years, the researchers found that 6.1 percent of patients died. Compared with the general population, death was more common in self-harm patients (standardized mortality ratio, 3.6), with mean years of life lost of 31.4 years for men and 30.7 years for women. Death from natural causes was two- to 7.5-times more frequent than expected, with diseases of the circulatory system (physical health problems), digestive system (alcohol related), and mental and behavioral disorders (drug abuse) being major contributors. Early death from natural causes was more common with socioeconomic deprivation.

"Our findings have large public health implications, and emphasize the important role of psychosocial assessment and the need for close attention to physical health disorders in the care of people who self-harm," Bergen and colleagues conclude. "The relation between physical and mental health is complex, and neither should be assessed or treated in isolation."

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