Self-harm in adolescence and risk of crash: A 13-year cohort study of novice drivers in New South Wales, Australia

Publication Name

Injury Prevention


Introduction: Self-harm and suicide are leading causes of morbidity and death for young people, worldwide. Previous research has identified self-harm is a risk factor for vehicle crashes, however, there is a lack of long-term crash data post licensing that investigates this relationship. We aimed to determine whether adolescent self-harm persists as crash risk factor in adulthood. Methods: We followed 20 806 newly licensed adolescent and young adult drivers in the DRIVE prospective cohort for 13 years to examine whether self-harm was a risk factor for vehicle crashes. The association between self-harm and crash was analysed using cumulative incidence curves investigating time to first crash and quantified using negative binominal regression models adjusted for driver demographics and conventional crash risk factors. Results: Adolescents who reported self-harm at baseline were at increased risk of crashes 13 years later than those reporting no self-harm (relative risk (RR) 1.29: 95% CI 1.14 to 1.47). This risk remained after controlling for driver experience, demographic characteristics and known risk factors for crashes, including alcohol use and risk taking behaviour (RR 1.23: 95% CI 1.08 to 1.39). Sensation seeking had an additive effect on the association between self-harm and single-vehicle crashes (relative excess risk due to interaction 0.87: 95% CI 0.07 to 1.67), but not for other types of crashes. Discussion: Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that self-harm during adolescence predicts a range of poorer health outcomes, including motor vehicle crash risks that warrant further investigation and consideration in road safety interventions. Complex interventions addressing self-harm in adolescence, as well as road safety and substance use, are critical for preventing health harming behaviours across the life course.

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Funding Sponsor

National Health and Medical Research Council



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