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AIMS: A large number of people present each day at hospitals for non-fatal deliberate self-harm (DSH). Examination of the short-term risk of non-fatal recurrence and mortality at the national level is of major importance for both individual medical decision-making and global organisation of care. METHODS: Following the almost exhaustive linkage (96%) of two national registries in France covering 45 million inhabitants (i.e. 70% of the whole population), information about hospitalisation for DSH in 2008-2009 and vital status at 1 year was obtained. Individuals who died during the index hospital stay were excluded from analyses. RESULTS: Over 2 years, 136,451 individuals were hospitalised in medicine or surgery for DSH. The sample comprised 62.8% women, median age 38 in both genders, with two peaks at 16 and 44 years in women, and one peak at 37 years in men. The method used for DSH was drug overdose in 82.1% of cases. Admission to an intensive care unit occurred in 12.9%. Following index hospitalisation, 71.3% returned home and 23.7% were transferred to a psychiatric inpatient care unit. DSH recurrence during the following year occurred in 12.4% of the sample, within the first 6 months in 75.2%, and only once in 74.6%. At 1 year, 2.6% of the sample had died. The overall standardised mortality ratio was 7.5 but reached more than 20 in young adults. The causes were natural causes (35.7%), suicide (34.4%), unspecified cause (17.5%) and accident (12.4%). Most (62.9%) deaths by suicide occurred within the first 6 months following index DSH. Violent means (i.e. not drug overdose) were used in 70% of suicide cases. Concordance between means used for index DSH and for suicide was low (30% overall), except for drug overdose. Main suicide risk factors were older age, being male, use of a violent means at index DSH, index admission to an intensive care unit, a transfer to another medical department or to a psychiatric inpatient unit, and recurrence of DSH. However, these factors had low positive predictive values individually (below 2%). CONCLUSIONS: Non-fatal DSH represent frequent events with a significant risk of short-term recurrence and death from various causes. The first 6 months following hospital discharge appear to be a critical period. Specific short-term aftercare programs targeting all people with a DSH episode have to be developed, along other suicide prevention strategies.

Original publication




Journal article


Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci

Publication Date





mortality, recurrence, self-harm, suicide, Adolescent, Adult, Age Distribution, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Child, Female, Follow-Up Studies, France, Hospitalization, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Recurrence, Registries, Self-Injurious Behavior, Sex Distribution, Suicide, Young Adult