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A retrospective cohort study comparing non-fatal self-harm emergency department visits between Canadian veterans living in Ontario and matched civilians

Mahar AL, Cramm H, Aiken AB, Whitehead M, Tien H, Fear NT, Kurdyak P. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2019; Apr 17 [Epub ahead of print].


This was a retrospective cohort study linking provincial administrative databases to compare rates of non-fatal self-harm between CAF and RCMP veterans living in Ontario and age-matched civilians. This study included male veterans who registered for provincial health insurance between 2002 and 2013. A civilian comparator group was matched 4:1 on age and sex. Self-harm emergency department (ED) visits were identified from provincial ED admission records until death or December 31, 2015. Multivariable Poisson regression compared the risk of self-harm. Analyses adjusted for age, geography, income, rurality, and major physical and mental comorbidities. In total, 9514 male veterans and 38,042 age- and sex-matched civilians were included. Overall, 0.55% of veterans had at least one non-fatal self-harm ED visit, compared with 0.81% of civilians. The rate of ED self-harm visits was 40% lower in the veteran population, compared to the civilian population (RR = 0.60; 95% CI = 0.41–0.87). In both groups, psychosocial and physical comorbidities, and death by suicide were more common in those who self-harmed than those who did not. A better understanding of why veterans have a lower rate of self-harm emergency department visits and how it is related to the number of completed suicides is an important area for future consideration.

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