BACKGROUND: Deliberate self-harm (DSH) increases the danger of future suicide death and the risk increases with age. Self-harm in older adults is often associated with greater suicidal intent and lethality.
OBJECTIVES: To investigate clinical and psychosocial variables of older patients (age ≥ 65 years) assessed due to DSH, compared with younger adults.
METHODS: Patients admitted to the Emergency Department following DSH during an 8 year period were included.
RESULTS: Of 1149 participants, 187 (16.6%) were older adults (age ≥ 65) and 962 (83.4%) were younger adults (< 65). The older adults reported DSH closer to mid-day (P < 0.01) and suffered more frequently from adjustment disorder and depression. Personality disorders and schizophrenia were less commonly diagnosed (P < 0.001). Prescription medication (sedatives and hypnotics) were a more frequent means (88% vs. 71%) of DSH among older patients. Younger patients with DSH used over-the-counter medications (21.9% vs. 6.4%) three times more than did the older patients (P < 0.01). Past DSH was significantly more frequent in younger adults. Following DSH the older patients were frequently admitted for further general hospitalization (P < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Older adults with DSH are a unique group with different clinical characteristics. There is a need for targeted prevention strategies and education of caregivers regarding DSH in older adults.