HealthDay News — Self-injuries accounted for a rising percentage of children’s emergency department visits — increasing from 1.1% to 1.6% of all visits, results of a study published in Pediatrics suggest.

To describe emergency department (ED) visits for self-inflicted injury among adolescents, examine trends in self-inflicted injury mechanisms, and identify risk factors associated with increased risk, Gretchen Cutler, PhD, MPH, of the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues culled data from 286,678 patients, aged 10 to 18 years, who were treated in an ED between 2009 and 2012.

Overall, 1.3% of the patients (n=3,664) were diagnosed with a self-inflicted injury. The most common cause was cutting, followed by firearm injuries. Cutting injuries increased over time, and it was particularly common among girls — accounting for almost half of their self-inflicted injuries.

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Burns, intentional falls, suffocation, and poisoning were among the other ways adolescents hurt themselves. Just over 4% died from their injuries — making children who self-harm 13 times more likely to die in the emergency department than children treated for other reasons.

According to Cutler, there was one bright spot in the findings: firearm injuries actually declined over time, from 27% of all self-inflicted injuries, to 22%. Cutler told HealthDay that it’s not clear why those injuries declined, while self-injuries overall rose.

It’s possible that adults are doing a better job of keeping firearms away from children, she speculated. “Or,” Cutler said, “there may have been a shift in the mechanisms children are using to self-injure.”


  1. Cutler GJ et al. Pediatrics. 2015; doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-3573.