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Deliberate self-harm in older people revisited

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sanjeet Pakrasi, Dr Amanda Gash, Dr Alan Swann


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Background Deliberate self harm (DSH) in later life is under researched and is believed to be related to both mental illness and suicide. Aims The aim of the study was to examine deliberate self-harm (DSH) in older people presenting to acute hospital services over three years. Method This was a retrospective observational study. We reviewed 97 episodes of DSH involving 82 patients aged 65 and over referred to the Liaison Psychiatric Service of the Tees and North East Yorkshire NHS Trust South Locality from 2000 to 2002. Results There was a year on year increase in the number of older people presenting with DSH, especially in men. Twenty-one percent of older men had no discernible psychiatric diagnosis. There were a small number of people who repeated DSH within a year and males were as likely to be repeaters as females. Twenty-three percent of all patients saw a General Practitioner (GP) in the 7 days before the episode of DSH and this increased to 58% in the 4 weeks preceding the episode of DSH. More males (56%) than females (26%) who presented with DSH were married. The most common method of DSH (93%) was medication overdose of which 66% used prescribed medication. There was no difference in the methods used to self-harm between men or women. Conclusion DSH in the elderly may start to mirror some of the characteristics seen in younger adults with DSH. While the numbers of DSH per year are small among the elderly compared to younger adults, the observations suggest an increase in DSH in men. Marriage may no longer be a protective factor in prevention of DSH among older men. Longer-term observational studies of DSH in older people are required to confirm these changing patterns. GPs may have an important role to play in prevention of DSH in later life. Copyright (c) 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lamprecht HC, Pakrasi S, Gash A, Swann AG

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry

Year: 2005

Volume: 20

Issue: 11

Pages: 1090-1096

ISSN (print): 0885-6230

ISSN (electronic): 1099-1166

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


DOI: 10.1002/gps.1404


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