Does Lent affect rates of deliberate self-harm?

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Moloney, N.
Glynn, K.
Harding, E.
Murphy, V.
Gulati, G.
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Cambridge University Press
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Background: Research has shown that religious affiliation has a protective effect against deliberate self-harm. This is particularly pronounced in periods of increased religious significance, such as periods of worship, celebration, and fasting. However, no data exist as to whether this effect is present during the Christian period of Lent. Our hypothesis was that Lent would lead to decreased presentations of self-harm emergency department (ED) in a predominantly Catholic area of Ireland. Methods: Following ethical approval, we retrospectively analysed data on presentations to the ED of University Hospital Limerick during the period of Lent and the 40 days immediately preceding it. Frequency data were compared using Pearson’s chi-squared tests in SPSS. Results: There was no significant difference in the overall number of people presenting to the ED with self-harm during Lent compared to the 40 days preceding it (χ2 = 0.75, df = 1, p > 0.05), and there was no difference in methods of self-harm used. However, there was a significant increase in attendances with self-harm during Lent in the over 50’s age group (χ2 = 7.76, df = 1, p = 0.005). Conclusions: Based on our study, Lent is not a protective factor for deliberate self-harm and was associated with increased presentations in the over 50’s age group. Further large-scale studies are warranted to investigate this finding as it has implications for prevention and management of deliberate self-harm.
Deliberate self-harm , Emergency department , Ireland , Lent , Religious affiliation
Moloney, N., Glynn, K., Harding, E., Murphy, V. and Gulati, G. (2020) ‘Does Lent affect rates of deliberate self-harm?’, Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. doi: 10.1017/ipm.2020.3
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