In a survey of more than 6,000 15 and 16-year-old school pupils, researchers found that girls are four times more likely to have engaged in deliberate self-harm compared to boys, with 11 per cent of girls and 3 per cent of boys reporting that they had self-harmed within the last year.
Previous estimates for the amount self-harm in the country were based on the 25,000 ‘presentations’ at hospitals in England and Wales each year that are the result of deliberate self-poisoning or self-injury amongst teenagers.
However, the current research has found that only 13 per cent of self-harming incidents reported by the pupils had resulted in a hospital visit. Although self-poisoning is the most common form of self-harm reported in hospitals, the study revealed that self-cutting was the more prevalent form of self-harm (64.5 per cent), followed by self-poisoning through overdose (31 per cent).
“This study provides more information about why young people engage in deliberate self-harm and helps us to recognise those at risk, to develop explanatory models and to design effective prevention programmes. In many cases, self-harming behaviour represents a transient period of distress, but for others it is an important indicator of mental health problems and a risk of suicide,” said Professor Keith Hawton from the Centre for Suicide Research at the University of Oxford, who directed the project.
“The reasons why boys and girls decide to self-harm are varied but the most frequent motive expressed by both males and females was as a means of coping with distress,” said Dr Karen Rodham from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath.
For both sexes there was an incremental increase in deliberate self-harm with increased consumption of cigarettes or alcohol, and all categories of drug use. Self-harm was more common in pupils who had been bullied and was strongly associated with physical and sexual abuse in both sexes. The majority of those who said they self-harmed said that it was an impulsive act rather than something they had thought about for a long time.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of Bath