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The epidemiology of intentional non-fatal self-harm poisoning in the United States: 2001–2004



Suicide attempts through intentional poisoning are an important public health concern. This investigation sought to determine the different US incident rates of poisonings (with intent to do self-harm) by race, sex, and gender.


We used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System — All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP) to describe differences in incidence rates of non-fatal, self-harm poisonings evaluated in US emergency departments (ED) from 2001 to 2004. WISQARS defines self-harm as “either confirmed or suspected from injury or poisoning resulting from a deliberate act inflicted on oneself with the intent to take one’s own life or harm oneself.”


From 2001 to 2004, there were 976,974 (95% Confidence Interval (CI) 772,884 – 1,181,065) non-fatal self-harm poisonings reported in US Emergency Departments. Young white females between 15 to 19 years of age were at highest risk with an incidence rate of 248 per 100,000 (95% CI 180 – 315). Females had higher rates of self-harm poisonings than males: the rate for females was 101 per 100,000 (95% CI 81 – 123); the rate for males was 66 per 100,000 (95% CI 51 – 81), p < 0.001. Whites had slightly higher rates than blacks, and significantly higher rates than Hispanics: whites rates were 71 per 100,000 (95% 51 – 91); black rates were 65 per 100,000 (95% CI 35 – 96), and Hispanic rates were 23 per 100,000 (95% 10 – 37). There was a significant increase in the incidence rate from 2002 to 2003 (p < 0.001). Incident rates decreased for females and males older than 19 years of age (p < 0.001 for males and females).


Recently, the incidence of self-harm poisoning has risen considerably. It rose from 75 (CI 53–98) per 100,000 in 2002 to 94 (CI 74–115) per 100,000 in 2003; incidence remained relatively steady in 2004. Whites have higher incidence rates than blacks and significantly higher incidence rates than Hispanics. Females are at higher risk than males, and adolescent white females are at highest risk. An understanding of the demographic factors associated with self-harm poisoning may provide useful information to improve prevention and treatment strategies.


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Correspondence to Jane M. Prosser.

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Prosser, J.M., Perrone, J. & Pines, J.M. The epidemiology of intentional non-fatal self-harm poisoning in the United States: 2001–2004. J. Med. Toxicol. 3, 20–24 (2007).

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  • poisoning
  • self-harm
  • demographics
  • emergency department
  • epidemiology