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Deliberate self-harm in rural and urban regions: A comparative study of prevalence and patient characteristics


  • Harriss, Louise
  • Hawton, Keith


In countries like the UK, people living in urban regions are more likely to suffer poor physical and mental health than rural populations, and to have increased rates of psychiatric disorder. Urban/rural differences in suicidal behaviour have most frequently focussed on variations in the occurrence of suicide. We have investigated rates of deliberate self-harm (DSH) in urban and rural districts of Oxfordshire, England, and compared characteristics of DSH patients resident in these two areas. Information was collected on 6833 DSH episodes by 4054 persons aged 15 years and over presenting to the local general hospital between 2001 and 2005. We found that urban DSH rates were substantially higher than rural rates amongst both males and females aged between 15 and 64 years. This relationship was sustained even when socio-economic deprivation and social fragmentation were taken into account. There was little difference between urban and rural rates for patients aged 65 years and over. Urban DSH patients were more likely to be younger, non-white in ethnic origin, unemployed, living alone, to have a criminal record, to have previously engaged in DSH, and to report problems with housing. Rural DSH patients were more likely to suffer from physical illness, and to have higher suicide intent scores. Results of studies such as this can help identify where resources for preventive initiatives should be primarily directed and also what types of individuals may be at most risk in different areas. However, since variation by area will in part be due to differences at the individual level, further research utilising multi-level modelling techniques would be useful.

Suggested Citation

  • Harriss, Louise & Hawton, Keith, 2011. "Deliberate self-harm in rural and urban regions: A comparative study of prevalence and patient characteristics," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 274-281, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:73:y:2011:i:2:p:274-281

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Peter Congdon, 1996. "Suicide and Parasuicide in London: A Small-area Study," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 33(1), pages 137-158, February.
    2. Duncan, Craig & Jones, Kelvyn & Moon, Graham, 1998. "Context, composition and heterogeneity: Using multilevel models in health research," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 97-117, January.
    3. Levin, Kate A. & Leyland, Alastair H., 2005. "Urban/rural inequalities in suicide in Scotland, 1981-1999," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(12), pages 2877-2890, June.
    4. David Martin & Philip Brigham & Paul Roderick & Sarah Barnett & Ian Diamond, 2000. "The (mis)representation of rural deprivation," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 32(4), pages 735-751, April.
    5. Verheij, Robert A., 1996. "Explaining urban-rural variations in health: A review of interactions between individual and environment," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 42(6), pages 923-935, March.
    6. Riva, Mylene & Curtis, Sarah & Gauvin, Lise & Fagg, James, 2009. "Unravelling the extent of inequalities in health across urban and rural areas: Evidence from a national sample in England," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(4), pages 654-663, February.
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    1. repec:eee:socmed:v:192:y:2017:i:c:p:102-111 is not listed on IDEAS


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