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In a consecutive sample of 50 adolescents aged 13-18 admitted to hospital after taking overdoses, 90 per cent were girls. There were other clear differences between this sample and adolescents in general. Twenty-four per cent had visited their general practitioners in the previous week, and 50 per cent during the previous month. The most common difficulties preceding the overdoses were problems with parents, boys or girlfriends, and with school or work, including unemployment. A substantial proportion of the subjects had recent recurrent physical ill health. In the majority of cases the problems appeared to be transient so that one month later two-thirds of the adolescents had shown considerable general improvement. However, 14 per cent were referred to hospital for further self-poisoning or self-injury in the following year. The recent increase in the incidence of self-poisoning among adolescents suggests that more attention must be paid to this group in terms of both primary and secondary prevention.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Psychiatry

Publication Date





118 - 123


Adolescent, Family Characteristics, Family Practice, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Male, Poisoning, Suicide, Attempted