What is the relationship between rejection and self-harm or suicidality in adulthood?

Rosanne Cawley, Eleanor E Pontin, Jade Touhey, Kate Sheehy, Peter Taylor

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: Rejection is an adverse experience that may help explain the heightened risk of self-harm and suicide amongst many societal groups. The aim of this systematic review was to determine the relationship between rejection experiences and self-harm and suicidal ideation.


: The databases PsychINFO, CINAHL, Medline and Web of Science were searched from inception until May 2017 using key search terms. Quantitative studies were included if they were; i) mean sample age over 18; ii) in the English language; iii) and had a measure of self-harm or suicidal behaviour and a measure of rejection. The results were synthesized narratively.


: Eighteen studies were identified for the review. Fifteen out of the eighteen studies found a significant positive association between rejection and self-harm. This association was identified within several marginalized groups known to be at risk of self-harm, including those from lesbian, gay or bisexual sexuality or those who identify as transgender.


: Heterogeneity between the measures of self-harm, suicidal behaviour and rejection, as well as the lack of longitudinal analyses made it difficult to draw firm conclusions.


: Perceived rejection may leave some individuals at risk of self-harm and might account for the elevated risk in marginalized societal groups. Interventions focused on modifying rejection experiences may help reduce the risk of self-harm in this population.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date19 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Rejection
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Adult


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