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BACKGROUND: Older adults have a high risk of suicide following self-harm. Contemporary information on self-harm in this population is needed to inform care provision. OBJECTIVES: To examine subgroup differences in the incidence of self-harm, sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, preceding life problems and outcomes in individuals aged 60 years and over presenting to hospital following self-harm. METHOD: Data on Emergency Department (ED) presentations for self-harm from 2003 to 2016 from three centres in the Multicentre Study of Self-Harm in England were analysed. Changes in self-harm rates were examined using Poisson regression. Univariable logistic regression was used to investigate factors associated with 12-month self-harm repetition. RESULTS: There were 3,850 presentations for self-harm by 2,684 individuals aged 60 years and over. Self-harm rates increased over time for 60-74-year-old men (IRR=1.04, 95% CI 1.02-1.06, P<0.0001). Problems most frequently reported to have preceded self-harm were mental health (40.5%) and physical health (38.3%) concerns. Problems with alcohol, finances, employment and relationship with partner were found more frequently in 60-74-year-olds compared with those aged over 74 years. Physical health problems were common with increasing age, as were problems with alcohol for men. One in ten (10.8%) presented to hospital with self-harm within 12 months of their index presentation. CONCLUSIONS: Self-harm-related ED attendances in older men have increased, particularly for men aged 60-74 years. Prevention and clinical management should involve a comprehensive psychosocial assessment to target common precipitants for the wide range of problems preceding self-harm and may include support with physical and mental wellbeing and advice on safer alcohol use.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Geriatr Psychiatry

Publication Date



emergency department, older adults, prevention, self-harm, suicide