WEDNESDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- One in 12 teens
deliberately harm themselves, but 90 percent give up the behavior
by the time they're young adults, a new study shows.
Self-harm, which includes cutting and burning, is one of the
strongest predictors of suicide and is especially common among
females aged 15 to 24, according to a news release from
The Lancet, where the finding appears Nov. 16 online.
In this study, researchers followed a group of young people in
Victoria, Australia, from 1992 to 2008. The participants' average
age was 15 in 1992-93 and 29 in 2008.
Of the 1,802 participants who took part while they were teens,
149 (8 percent) reported self-harm. More girls (10 percent) than
boys (6 percent) reported self-harm. There was a substantial
decline in self-harm during the late teens and by age 29, fewer
than 1 percent of the participants reported self-harm.
Of the 1,652 participants who took part both when they were
teens and young adults, 136 reported self-harm while they were
teens. Of those 136 participants, 122 (90 percent) reported no
self-harm in young adulthood and 14 (10 percent) reported
continuing self-harm (13 females and one male).
Cutting and burning were the most common form of self-harm among
teens. Other forms of self-harm included self-battery and
poisoning/overdose. No single type of self-harm was most common
among young adults.
Among teens, symptoms of depression and anxiety were associated
with a 3.7 times increased risk of self harm, cigarette smoking was
associated with a 2.4 times increased risk, antisocial behavior and
high-risk alcohol use were associated with a doubling of risk and
marijuana use was associated with a near-doubling of risk.
Young adults who had depression or anxiety when they were teens
were about six times more likely to self-harm, compared to those
who had no depression and anxiety when they were teens.
"Our findings suggest that most adolescent self-harming behavior resolves spontaneously. However, young people who self-harm often have mental health problems that might not resolve without treatment, as evident in the strong relation detected between adolescent anxiety and depression and an increased risk of self-harm in young adulthood," wrote Dr. Paul Moran, of King's College London, Institute of Psychiatry, in England, and George C Patton, a professor at the Centre for Adolescent Health at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues.
"Our findings suggest that the treatment of such problems might have additional benefits in terms of reducing the suffering and disability associated with self-harm in later years. Moreover, because of the association between self-harm and suicide, we suggest that the treatment of common mental disorders during adolescence could constitute an important and hitherto unrecognized component of suicide prevention in young adults," they concluded.
The Canadian Mental Health Association has more about
youth and self-injury.