Self harmers three times more likely to die early

National News News

A new study has suggested that individuals with a history of self- harming are more than three times as likely to die prematurely than the general population.

During a seven year study led by University of Oxford researchers, over 30,000 individuals with non-fatal self-harm injuries in Oxford, Manchester and Derby emergency departments were monitored.

The study recorded that over 6 per cent of the individuals observed died prior to the conclusion of the six year follow-up period, with on average, at least 30 years of life lost by each individual.

The risk of dying from suicide or accidental poisoning was signifcantly increased for both men and women, in addition to their likelihood of dying from natural causes.

Researchers noted an unprecedented number of ‘natural’ deaths- 7.5 per cent greater than what was previously assumed.

Most of these deaths were largely attributed to drug and alcohol abuse.

The researchers concluded: “Physical health and life expectancy are severely compromised in individuals who self-harm compared to the general population.

“The relation between physical and mental health is complex, and neither should be treated in isolation”.

Emma James, a third year Experimental Psychologist at St. Catz welcomes this work:  “I applaud studies that scrutinize challenging topics such as self harm; this paper provides much needed insight into the linkages between physical and mental health”.

However, Professor Keith Hawton of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University, said: “It must be remembered that it is only a minority of people who self-harm that can go on to die at these tragically young ages – in our study, it was 6 per cent of those who had come through an A&E department after self-harming. We are looking at the far end of a scale.”

Dr Paul Moran of the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London- who was not involved in the study- said: “Such findings highlight how crucial it is to properly assess the physical health of people who self-harm. The paper shows that they are clearly a vulnerable population of individuals with multiple health needs.”

The researchers hope that this study will prompt policymakers to restructure healthcare services to ensure a successful integration of both physical and mental care for patients.

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