Effects of Living Alone on Deliberate Self-harmers

August 24, 2010

British researchers report on the effects of living alone on patients who have deliberately injured themselves.

British researchers who recently published their study results inSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology have found alarming results that “have implications for psychiatric services assessing DSH patients who live alone, since, depending on the patient’s age and living circumstances, different psychiatric and social interventions may be needed.”

Looking at data on patients who presented to a general hospital in Oxford, UK, with an episode of deliberate self-harm (DSH) between 1993 and 2006, the team analyzed information from the Oxford Monitoring System for Attempted Suicide by gender, age group (15-24 years, 25-54 years, and 55 years and older), and whether the individual lived alone.

Of participants, 1,163 (14.8%) lived alone. This group was more likely to experience problems with social isolation and bereavement, especially in the oldest age group. Higher suicide intent associated with both the current and past DSH episodes and several variable concerning psychiatry problems were more common in those who lived along and were in the 25-54 years age group. Also among those living alone, females were more likely to have repetition of DSH within 12 months, compared to those not living alone. Further, those who lived along were significantly more likely to die from any cause and more likely to die by suicide, although the difference between those who lived alone and those who did not was not significant after adjusting for age.

The research team concluded that “DSH patients who live alone may not have supportive social networks and may be at increased risk of repetition of DSH and suicide,” adding that mid-age “DSH patients who live alone appear to be particularly vulnerable.”

More on Self-harm:

  • Self-harm Wikipedia page
  • A Grounded Theory Exploration of Deliberate Self-harm in Incarcerated Women
  • Emotions and Pain in Deliberate Self-harm
  • Painful Engagement in Deliberate Self-harm: The Role of Conditional Goal Setting
  • Early Study of N-Acetylcysteine to Treat Deliberate Self-Harm in Adolescents