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Outcome of Deliberate Self-Poisoning: An Examination of Risk Factors for Repetition

  • David Owens (a1), Michael Dennis (a2), Susan Read (a3) and Norah Davis (a4)



One of the most important outcomes following an episode of non-fatal deliberate self-poisoning is its repetition.


In a prospective follow-up study the subjects were 992 people responsible for 1096 consecutive episodes of deliberate self-poisoning recorded at a teaching hospital accident and emergency department. Risk factors examined were socio–demographic variables, psychiatric and self-harm history, aspects of the self-poisoning episode, and appearance and behaviour at accident and emergency; the frequency of each was compared between those patients who repeated within one year (n= 116) and those who did not (n = 876).


Those who repeated were more likely to have ingested more than one drug, to report a previous episode of self-poisoning, to be aged 25–54, and to have experienced previous psychiatric care or psychiatric admission. They were less likely to be in paid employment, or to have expressed a threat to another person or written a note. The best predictor – previous psychiatric contact – only had a positive predictive value of 21 % (95% confidence interval 16–25%).


Risk factors for repetition of self-poisoning should be kept up-to-date despite modest predictive power. More attention might be paid to clinical rather than socio–demographic aspects of self-harm.


Corresponding author

Dr D. W. Owens, Division of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, University of Leeds, 15 Hyde Terrace, Leeds LS2 9LT


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Outcome of Deliberate Self-Poisoning: An Examination of Risk Factors for Repetition

  • David Owens (a1), Michael Dennis (a2), Susan Read (a3) and Norah Davis (a4)


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Outcome of Deliberate Self-Poisoning: An Examination of Risk Factors for Repetition

  • David Owens (a1), Michael Dennis (a2), Susan Read (a3) and Norah Davis (a4)
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