Understanding women who self-harm: predictors and long-term outcomes in a longitudinal community sample

Sarah Stanford, Michael P. Jones*, Deborah J. Loxton

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: There is growing awareness of the range of psychosocial, lifestyle, and sociodemographic factors related to self-harm, however this research is often limited by using cross-sectional or convenience samples. And while we generally assume that young adults who self-harm experience poorer long-term outcomes, longitudinal research is needed. This paper builds on prior research using a large, representative, longitudinal sample. Methods: 5765 Australian women completed 5 surveys (age 18–23 to 31–36). Six-month self-harm was measured by self-report. We had two aims: firstly to predict future self-harm, separately for women with and without prior self-harm. Secondly, to identify outcomes 3 and 6 years following self-harm. Results: Six-month self-harm prevalence was 2.5%. Predictors among women without recent self-harm included depression, dieting behaviours, number of male sexual partners, and abuse. Among women with recent or current self-harm, predictors were number of dieting behaviours, tiredness of life, and stress. Women who self-harmed reported poorer outcomes, namely greater difficulties in relationships at 3- and 6-year follow-up. Conclusions: Longitudinal risk factors for self-harm differed depending on prior self-harm status, and included depression, dieting behaviours, tiredness of life and stress. These factors may serve as warning signs for new or continued self-harm. This study offers new insight into long-term outcomes up to six years after self-harm, particularly with relationships.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)151-160
    Number of pages10
    JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


    • self-harm
    • risk factors
    • outcomes
    • longitudinal


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