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Deliberate self-harm as seen in Kampala, Uganda

A case-control study



A study to investigate deliberate self-harm (DSH) in an African context was undertaken in Uganda.


A case-control study in which 100 cases of DSH and 300 controls matched on age and sex were recruited from three general hospitals in Kampala and subjected to a structured interview using a modified version of the European Parasuicide Study Interview Schedule I.


Among the cases, 63% were males, with a male to female ratio of 1.7:1 and a peak age range of 20–24 years. Higher educational attainment, higher socio-economic class and poor housing were significantly associated with DSH. District of current residence, district of birth, religion, ethnicity, marital status, number of children, current living arrangement, area of usual residence, employment status of respondent and partner were not significantly associated with DSH. Pesticides and medications, mainly antimalarials and diazepam, were the main methods of DSH used. The most commonly reported psychiatric disorders were adjustment disorder, acute stress reactions and depression.


DSH in Uganda appears to predominantly afflict the young. Disturbed interpersonal relationships, poverty and loneliness were important factors in the immediate precipitation of this behaviour. The fact that pesticide poisoning is still the predominantly used method in DSH in this area calls for a review of the legislation that controls the sale and availability of these agricultural chemicals.

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Correspondence to Eugene Kinyanda.

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Kinyanda, E., Hjelmeland, H. & Musisi, S. Deliberate self-harm as seen in Kampala, Uganda. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 39, 318–325 (2004).

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