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Lipids and polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in deliberate self-harm: a 10-year follow-up study

  • A. T. Gallagher (a1), F. Byrne (a1), I. T. Murray (a2), J. Lally (a1) (a3), J. M. Davis (a4), M. Garland (a5), J. R. Hibbeln (a6) and B. Hallahan (a1)...



To evaluate if n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and lipid levels are associated with episodes of self-harm or depression over a 10-year period.


We included 40 individuals who self-harmed and 40 controls. Episodes of self-harm and depression were ascertained and levels of depression, impulsivity, suicidal ideation and plasma lipid levels measured at baseline and at 10-year follow-up.


Further episode(s) of self-harm occurred in 26% of cases. Omega-3 PUFAs or lipids were not predictive of depressive or self-harm episodes. Baseline eicosapentaenoic acid levels were modestly correlated with suicidal ideation at follow-up and dihomo-γ-linolenic acid and arachidonic acid were modestly correlated with motor impulsivity at follow-up in cases.


Despite significant negative correlations at baseline between plasma lipids, n-3 PUFAs and psychopathology, these levels were not predictive of clinical outcome over a 10-year period. Further research however is required due to the relatively low sample size and the risk of selection bias due to loss to follow-up in this study.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr B. Hallahan, MMedSci, MD, MRCPsych, Consultant Psychiatrist and Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Clinical Science Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland. (Email:


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