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Age-specific suicide mortality following non-fatal self-harm: national cohort study in Sweden

  • D. Tidemalm (a1), K. Beckman (a1), M. Dahlin (a1), M. Vaez (a2), P. Lichtenstein (a3), N. Långström (a3) and B. Runeson (a1)...



Possible age-related differences in risk of completed suicide following non-fatal self-harm remain unexplored. We examined associations between self-harm and completed suicide across age groups of self-harming patients, and whether these associations varied by violent index method, presence of mental disorder, and repeated self-harm.


The design was a cohort study with linked national registers in Sweden. The study population comprised individuals aged ⩾10 years hospitalized during 1990–1999 due to non-fatal self-harm (n = 53 843; 58% females) who were followed for 9–19 years. We computed hazard ratios (HRs) across age groups (age at index self-harm episode), with time to completed suicide as outcome.


The 1-year HR for suicide among younger males (10–19 years) was 14.6 [95% confidence interval (CI) 4.1–51.9] for violent method and 8.4 (95% CI 1.8–40.0) for mental disorder. By contrast, none of the three potential risk factors increased the 1-year risks in the youngest females. Among patients aged ⩾20 years, the 1-year HR for violent method was 4.6 (95% CI 3.8–5.4) for males and 10.4 (95% CI 8.3–13.0) for females. HRs for repeated self-harm during years 2–9 of follow-up were higher in 10- to 19-year-olds (males: HR 4.0, 95% CI 2.0–7.8; females: HR 3.7, 95% CI 2.1–6.5). The ⩾20 years age groups had higher HRs than the youngest, particularly for females and especially within 1 year.


Violent method and mental disorder increase the 1-year suicide risk in young male self-harm patients. Further, violent method increases suicide risk within 1 year in all age and gender groups except the youngest females. Repeated self-harm may increase the long-term risk more in young patients. These aspects should be accounted for in clinical suicide risk assessment.


Corresponding author

* Address for correspondence: Dr D. Tidemalm, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Centre for Psychiatry Research, Karolinska Institutet, Vårdvägen 1, St. Göran, SE-112 81 Stockholm, Sweden. (Email:


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