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In England suicide rates are highest in midlife (defined as age 40–59). Despite a strong link with suicide there has been little focus on self-harm in this age group.
To describe characteristics and treatment needs of people in midlife who present to hospital following self-harm.
Data from the Multicentre Study of Self-harm in England were used to examine rates over time and characteristics of men and women who self-harm in midlife. Data (2000–2013) were collected via specialist assessments or hospital records. Trends were assessed by negative binomial regression models. Comparative analysis used logistic regression models for binary outcomes. Repetition and suicide mortality were assessed by Cox proportional hazards models.
A quarter of self-harm presentations were made by people in midlife (n = 24 599, 26%). Incidence rates increased over time in men, especially after 2008 (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 1.07, 95% CI 1.02–1.12, P < 0.01), and were positively correlated with national suicide incidence rates (r = 0.52, P = 0.05). Rates in women remained relatively stable (IRR 1.00, 95% CI 1.00–1.02, P = 0.39) and were not correlated with suicide. Alcohol use, unemployment, housing and financial factors were more common in men; whereas indicators of poor mental health were more common in women. In men and women 12-month repetition was 25%, and during follow-up 2.8% of men and 1.2% of women died by suicide.
Self-harm in midlife represents a key target for intervention. Addressing underlying issues, alcohol use and economic factors may help prevent further self-harm and suicide.
Declaration of interest
K.H. and N.K. are members of the Department of Health's National Suicide Prevention Advisory Group. N.K. chaired the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guideline development group for the longer-term management of self-harm and the NICE Topic Expert Group which developed the quality standards for self-harm services. N.K. also chairs the NICE guideline committee for the management of depression. All other authors declare no conflict of interest.
High body mass index (BMI) has been associated with lower risks of suicidal behaviour and being underweight with increased risks. However, evidence is inconsistent and sparse, particularly for women. We aim to study this relationship in a large cohort of UK women.
In total 1.2 million women, mean age 56 (s.d. 5) years, without prior suicide attempts or other major illness, recruited in 1996–2001 were followed by record linkage to national hospital admission and death databases. Cox regression yielded relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for attempted suicide and suicide by BMI, adjusted for baseline lifestyle factors and self-reported treatment for depression or anxiety.
After 16 (s.d. 3) years of follow-up, 4930 women attempted suicide and 642 died by suicide. The small proportion (4%) with BMI <20 kg/m2 were at clearly greater risk of attempted suicide (RR = 1.38, 95% CI 1.23–1.56) and suicide (RR = 2.10, 1.59–2.78) than women of BMI 20–24.9 kg/m2; p < 0.0001 for both comparisons. Small body size at 10 and 20 years old was also associated with increased risks. Half the cohort had BMIs >25 kg/m2 and, while risks were somewhat lower than for BMI 20–24.9 kg/m2 (attempted suicide RR = 0.91, 0.86–0.96; p = 0.001; suicide RR = 0.79, 0.67–0.93; p = 0.006), the reductions in risk were not strongly related to level of BMI.
Being underweight is associated with a definite increase in the risk of suicidal behaviour, particularly death by suicide. Residual confounding cannot be excluded for the small and inconsistent decreased risk of suicidal behaviour associated with being overweight or obese.
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