Original Article

Suicide and traumatic spinal cord injury—a cohort study



Study design:

Retrospective and prospective observational.


The main objective of this study was to analyse suicide attempt as a cause of traumatic spinal cord injury (tSCI) and suicide as a cause of death after tSCI.


This study was conducted at two British spinal centres, Stoke Mandeville and Southport.


Long-term survival of patients who were newly admitted between 1991 and 2010, had survived the first post-injury year and had neurological deficit on discharge. Follow-up was discontinued on 31 December 2014.


Among the 2304 newly admitted cases of tSCI, suicide attempt was the cause of injury in 63 cases (2.7%). By the end of 2014 there were 533 deaths of which 4.2% deaths were by suicide, with 91% of suicides happening in the first 10 years post injury. Multiple logistic regression analyses showed a higher mortality odds ratio (OR=4.32, P<0.001) and a much higher suicide OR (9.46, P<0.001) for persons injured in suicide attempts when compared with all other SCI aetiologies. The overall age-standardised suicide mortality rate was 62.5 per 100 000 persons per year (95% confidence interval=36.4–88.6), five times higher than the general population suicide rate for England and Wales in 2014 (12.2 per 100 000).


Suicide attempt was the cause of tSCI in 2.7% of the sample and suicide was the cause of death in 4.2% of all deaths. The overall mortality and death by suicide were significantly higher in persons whose tSCI was caused by an attempted suicide when compared with the rest of the sample. Continued psychological attention following SCI, especially to those who were injured by suicide attempt, is warranted.

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This study was financially supported by the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust Charitable Spinal Fund and the Ann Masson Legacy for Spinal Research Fund, UK. We thank the Medical Records staff at Stoke Mandeville and Southport Spinal Centres, and especially Mrs Pauline Bateman, for their help with medical notes retrieval.

Author information


  1. National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Aylesbury, UK

    • G Savic
    • , H L Frankel
    •  & M A Jamous
  2. University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA

    • M J DeVivo
  3. North West Regional Spinal Injuries Centre, Southport Hospital, Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust, Southport, UK

    • B M Soni
  4. Craig Hospital, Englewood, CO, USA

    • S Charlifue


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Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to G Savic.