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Background: Little information is available to inform clinical assessments on risk of self-harm repetition in ethnic minority groups. Methods: In a prospective cohort study, using data collected from six hospitals in England for self-harm presentations occurring between 2000 and 2007, we investigated risk factors for repeat self-harm in South Asian and Black people in comparison to Whites. Results: During the study period, 751 South Asian, 468 Black and 15,705 White people presented with self-harm in the study centres. Repeat self-harm occurred in 4379 individuals, which included 229 suicides (with eight of these fatalities being in the ethnic minority groups). The risk ratios for repetition in the South Asian and Black groups compared to the White group were 0.6, 95% CI 0.5-0.7 and 0.7, 95% CI 0.5-0.8, respectively. Risk factors for repetition were similar across all three groups, although excess risk versus Whites was seen in Black people presenting with mental health symptoms, and South Asian people reporting alcohol use and not having a partner. Additional modelling of repeat self-harm count data showed that alcohol misuse was especially strongly linked with multiple repetitions in both BME groups. Limitations: Ethnicity was not recorded in a third of cases which may introduce selection bias. Differences may exist due to cultural diversity within the broad ethnic groups. Conclusion: Known social and psychological features that infer risk were present in South Asian and Black people who repeated self-harm. Clinical assessment in these ethnic groups should ensure recognition and treatment of mental illness and alcohol misuse. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Affective Disorders

Publication Date





435 - 439