Abstract

Background: Self-harm and eating disorders are often comorbid in clinical samples but their co-occurrence in the general population is unclear. Given that only a small proportion of individuals who self-harm or have disordered eating present to clinical services, and that both self-harm and eating disorders are associated with substantial morbidity and mortality, it is important to study these behaviours at a population level.

Methods: We assessed the co-occurrence of self-harm and disordered eating behaviours in 3384 females and 2326 males from a UK population-based cohort: the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Participants reported on their self-harm and disordered eating behaviours (fasting, purging, binge-eating and excessive exercise) in the last year via questionnaire at 16 and 24 years. At each age we assessed how many individuals who self-harm also reported disordered eating, and how many individuals with disordered eating also reported self-harm.

Results: We found high comorbidity of self-harm and disordered eating. Almost two-thirds of 16-year-old females, and two-in-five 24-year old males who self-harmed also reported some form of disordered eating. Young people with disordered eating reported higher levels of self-harm at both ages compared to those without disordered eating.

Limitations: We were not able to measure whether participants identified their disordered eating as a method of self-harm.

Conclusions: Self-harm and disordered eating commonly co-occur in young people in the general population. It is important to screen for both sets of difficulties to provide appropriate treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-390
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume282
Early online date7 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
HB, JH, BM, PM, ASt, MM, LB, ASk, and DG were involved in obtaining research funding for the project. All authors were involved in formulating the research question. NW and JH performed data analysis. All authors contributed to interpretation of results and writing and approval of the final manuscript. This work was supported by funding from the Medical Research Council/Medical Research Foundation (MRC/MRF grant number MR/S020292/1). Becky Mars, David Gunnell and Paul Moran are part-funded by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol. Paul Moran and Lucy Biddle are part-funded by NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) West. Marcus Munaf? is a member of the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol (MC_UU_00011/7). Andy Skinner is funded by a UKRI Innovation Fellowship from Health Data Research UK to Andy Skinner (MR/S003894/1). The views expressed in this correspondence are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Health Service, the National Institute for Health Research, or the Department of Health and Social Care. The UK Medical Research Council and Wellcome (Grant ref: 217065/Z/19/Z) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. This publication is the work of the authors and Naomi Warne and Helen Bould will serve as guarantors for the contents of this paper. A comprehensive list of grants funding is available on the ALSPAC website (http://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/external/documents/grant-acknowledgements.pdf); This research was specifically funded by Wellcome Trust and MRC (Grant ref: 092731), NIH (Grant refs: MH087786-01 & R21MH109917), Wellcome Trust (Grant ref: GR067797MA) and NIHR (Grant ref: 1215-20011). The funding sources had no role in the study design, analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We are extremely grateful to all the families who took part in this study, the midwives for their help in recruiting them, and the whole ALSPAC team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists and nurses.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by funding from the Medical Research Council/Medical Research Foundation (MRC/MRF grant number MR/S020292/1 ). Becky Mars, David Gunnell and Paul Moran are part-funded by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol. Paul Moran and Lucy Biddle are part-funded by NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) West . Marcus Munafò is a member of the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol (MC_UU_00011/7). Andy Skinner is funded by a UKRI Innovation Fellowship from Health Data Research UK to Andy Skinner (MR/S003894/1). The views expressed in this correspondence are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Health Service, the National Institute for Health Research, or the Department of Health and Social Care. The UK Medical Research Council and Wellcome (Grant ref: 217065/Z/19/Z) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. This publication is the work of the authors and Naomi Warne and Helen Bould will serve as guarantors for the contents of this paper. A comprehensive list of grants funding is available on the ALSPAC website (http://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/external/documents/grant-acknowledgements.pdf); This research was specifically funded by Wellcome Trust and MRC (Grant ref: 092731), NIH (Grant refs: MH087786-01 & R21MH109917), Wellcome Trust (Grant ref: GR067797MA) and NIHR (Grant ref: 1215-20011).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors

Structured keywords

  • ALSPAC

Keywords

  • self-harm
  • disordered eating
  • comorbidity
  • epidemiology

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