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BACKGROUND: Although there is robust evidence for several factors which may precipitate self-harm, the contributions of different physical injuries are largely unknown. OBJECTIVE: To examine whether specific physical injuries are associated with risks of self-harm in people with psychiatric disorders. METHODS: By using population and secondary care registers, we identified all people born in Finland (1955-2000) and Sweden (1948-1993) with schizophrenia-spectrum disorder (n=136 182), bipolar disorder (n=68 437) or depression (n=461 071). Falls, transport-related injury, traumatic brain injury and injury from interpersonal assault were identified within these subsamples. We used conditional logistic regression models adjusted for age and calendar month to compare self-harm risk in the week after each injury to earlier weekly control periods, which allowed us to account for unmeasured confounders, including genetics and early environments. FINDINGS: A total of 249 210 individuals had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder and a physical injury during the follow-up. The absolute risk of self-harm after a physical injury ranged between transport-related injury and injury from interpersonal assault (averaging 17.4-37.0 events per 10 000 person-weeks). Risk of self-harm increased by a factor of two to three (adjusted OR: 2.0-2.9) in the week following a physical injury, as compared with earlier, unexposed periods for the same individuals. CONCLUSIONS: Physical injuries are important proximal risk factors for self-harm in people with psychiatric disorders. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Mechanisms underlying the associations could provide treatment targets. When treating patients with psychiatric illnesses, emergency and trauma medical services should actively work in liaison with psychiatric services to implement self-harm prevention strategies.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Ment Health

Publication Date





Depression & mood disorders, Schizophrenia & psychotic disorders, Suicide & self-harm, Humans, Mental Disorders, Brain Injuries, Traumatic, Bipolar Disorder, Precipitating Factors, Self-Injurious Behavior