Deliberate self-harm in older adults: A general hospital emergency department survey

Irina Briskman, Assaf Shelef, Uri Berger, Yehuda Baruch, Gali Bar, Jack Asherov, Artur Lvovski, Alan Apter, Yoram Barak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


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 the 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 occurring closer to mid-day (P < 0.01) and suffered more frequently from adjustment disorder and depression than did younger adults. 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-163
Number of pages4
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Moshe Michael Lieberman, medical student in the New York program at Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel, for his assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Israel Medical Association. All rights reserved.


  • Emergency department (ER)
  • Older adults
  • Self-harm
  • Self-injury
  • Suicide attempt


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