, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 159-166

The urban environment and deliberate self-poisoning: Trends in Southampton 1972–1977

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Trends in Casualty admission rates of persons after deliberate self-poisoning in Southampton between January 1972 and March 1977 were examined by collecting data from hospital records and interviewing patients. The number of persons attending Casualty at least once in a year increased by 12 % over the 5 year period. The rise in numbers slowed in the last year, due to a slight fall in the number of women attending. The pattern of self-poisoning resembled that found in other British urban areas in incidence, age and sex distribution and correlation with socio-economic factors. The Southampton self-poisoners differed from the local population in marital status, in socio-economic status and economic activity and in living circumstances. When areas of residence of self-poisoners within the City were examined, three electoral wards were found consistently to produce more than their share of self-poisoning cases, although the rank order of all the electoral wards was not stable over the period. Self-poisoning rates were then examined for Small Area Zones, groups of enumeration districts more socially homogeneous than the larger wards. 5 Zones were found to be discontinuous from the remainder in having very high self-poisoning rates. All were in the inner City area. The male high rate Zones were characterized as a “rooming house reception area”; the female high rate Zones as an “immigrant reception area”. The self-poisoners living in high-rate Zones differed from the remainder in being more psychiatrically and socially disadvantaged. They were more residentially mobile, and the most important characteristic of the area, in relation to its high self-poisoning rates, seemed to be the presence within it of housing, hostels and cheap furnished accommodation, which attracted vulnerable individuals who stayed for a short period before moving on.