Risk of suicide following deliberate self-poisoning

Yaron Finkelstein, Erin M. MacDonald, Simon Hollands, Marco L.A. Sivilotti, Janine R. Hutson, Muhammad M. Mamdani, Gideon Koren, David N. Juurlink, Colin R. Dormuth, Collette B. Raymond, Anita Kozyrskj, Yola Moride, Michael Paterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


IMPORTANCE: Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and its rate has risen by 16% in the past decade. Deliberate self-poisoning is the leading method of attempted suicide. Unlike more violent methods, which are almost universally fatal, survival following self-poisoning is common, providing an opportunity for secondary prevention. However, the long-term risk of suicide following a first episode of self-poisoning is unknown. OBJECTIVE: To determine the risk of suicide and mortality from other causes following a first self-poisoning episode. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Population-based cohort study using multiple linked health care databases. We identified all individuals with a first self-poisoning episode in Ontario, Canada, from April 1, 2002, through December 31, 2010, and followed up all surviving participants until December 31, 2011, or death, whichever occurred first. For each individual with a deliberate self-poisoning episode, we randomly selected 1 control from the same population with no such history, matched for age (within 3 months), sex, and calendar year. MAIN OUTCOMESAND MEASURES: The primary analysis examined the risk of suicide following discharge after self-poisoning. The secondary analyses explored factors associated with suicide and examined the risk of death caused by accidents or any other cause. RESULTS: We identified 65 784 patients (18 482 [28.1%] younger than 20 years) who were discharged after a first self-poisoning episode. During a median follow-up of 5.3 years (interquartile range, 3.1-7.6 years), 4176 died, including 976 (23.4%) by suicide. The risk of suicide following self-poisoning was markedly increased relative to controls (hazard ratio, 41.96; 95% CI, 27.75-63.44), corresponding to a suicide rate of 278 vs 7 per 100 000 person-years, respectively. The median time from hospital discharge to completed suicide was 585 days (interquartile range, 147-1301 days). Older age, male sex, multiple intervening self-poisoning episodes, higher socioeconomic status, depression, and recent psychiatric care were strongly associated with suicide. Patients with a self-poisoning episode were also more likely to die because of accidents (hazard ratio, 10.45; 95% CI, 8.10-13.47) and all causes combined (hazard ratio, 5.55; 95% CI, 5.12-6.02). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: A first self-poisoning episode is a strong predictor of subsequent suicide and premature death. Most suicides occur long after the index poisoning, emphasizing the importance of longitudinal, sustained secondary prevention initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-575
Number of pages6
JournalJAMA Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


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