Self-injury, suicidality and eating disorder symptoms in young adults following COVID-19 lockdowns in Denmark

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Using longitudinal and repeated cross-sectional data, Danielsen et al. find no indication that the proportion of Danish young adults with self-injury, suicidality or eating disorder symptoms increased during lockdown.

An aggravation in mental health during the COVID-19 lockdown has been suggested but the impact on self-injury, suicidality and eating disorders (EDs) are less elucidated. Using linear regression in different data set-ups that is longitudinal (n = 7,579) and repeated cross-sectional data (n = 24,625) from the Danish National Birth Cohort, we compared self-reported self-injury, suicidality and symptoms of EDs from before through different pandemic periods until spring 2021. The longitudinal data indicate a reduction in the proportion of self-injury in men (-3.2% points, 95% confidence interval (CI) = -4.3%; -2.2%, P < 0.001, d.f. = 2) and women (5.7% points, 95% CI = -6.6%; -4.8%, P < 0.001, d.f. = 2) and of suicide ideation in men (-3.0% points, 95% CI = -4.6%; -1.4%, P = 0.002, d.f. = 2) and women (-7.4% points, 95% CI = -8.7%; -6.0%, P < 0.001, d.f. = 2), as well as symptoms of EDs in women (-2.3% points, 95% CI = -3.2%; -1.4%, P < 0.001, d.f. = 2). For suicide attempt, indication of an increase was observed in men only (0.4% points, 95% CI = 0.1%; 0.7%, P = 0.019, d.f. = 2). In the repeated cross-sectional data, we observed no changes in any of the outcomes. Our findings provide no support for the increase in self-injury, suicidality and symptoms of EDs after the lockdowns. Key limitations are differential attrition and varying age in pre- and post-lockdown measures in the longitudinal data.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Pages (from-to)411–419
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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