Association between SARS-CoV-2 infection and self-harm: Danish nationwide register-based cohort study

Annette Erlangsen, Ping Qin, Trine Madsen, Keith Hawton, Merete Osler, Carsten Hjorthøj, Michael E Benros, Steen Ethelberg, Kåre Mølbak, Thomas Munk Laursen, Merete Nordentoft, Sandra Feodor Nilsson

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Case studies have linked SARS-CoV-2 infection to suicidal behaviour. However, conclusive evidence is lacking.

AIMS: To examine whether a history of SARS-CoV-2 infection or SARS-CoV-2-related hospital admission was associated with self-harm in the general population and in high-risk groups.

METHOD: A cohort design was applied to nationwide data on all people aged ≥15 years and living in Denmark between 27 February 2020 and 15 October 2021. Exposure was identified as having had a positive SARS-CoV-2 PCR test, and further assessed as SARS-CoV-2-related hospital admission. Rates of probable self-harm were examined using adjusted incidence rate ratios (aIRRs). The following subgroups were identified: (a) lower educational level, (b) chronic medical conditions, (c) disability pension, (d) mental disorders, (e) substance use disorders, and history of (f) homelessness and (g) imprisonment.

RESULTS: Among 4 412 248 included individuals, 260 663 (5.9%) had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Out of 5453 individuals presenting with self-harm, 131 (2.4%) had been infected. Individuals with a history of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result had an aIRR for self-harm of 0.86 (95% CI 0.72-1.03) compared with those without. High rates were found after a SARS-CoV-2-related hospital admission (aIRR = 7.68; 95% CI 5.61-10.51) or a non-SARS-CoV-2-related admission (aIRR = 10.27; 95% CI 9.65-10.93) versus non-infected and not admitted. In sensitivity analyses with a more restrictive definition of self-harm, a positive PCR test was associated with lower rates of self-harm.

CONCLUSIONS: Individuals with a PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection did not have higher rates of self-harm than those without. Hospital admission in general, rather than being SARS-CoV-2 positive. seemed to be linked to elevated rates of self-harm.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science
Volume222
Issue4
Pages (from-to)167-174
Number of pages8
ISSN0007-1250
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Suicide attempt
  • epidemiology
  • self-harm
  • Denmark/epidemiology
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Self-Injurious Behavior/epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies

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