One in ten teenage girls self-harm each year and the problem is far more widespread than was previously thought, shows the largest-ever study of self-harm amongst 15 and 16 year olds in England.
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, research by academics from the universities of Bath and Oxford 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).
"The study shows that deliberate self-harm is common amongst teenagers in England, especially in girls who are four times more likely to self-harm than boys," said Dr Karen Rodham from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath.
"Until now, most studies of deliberate self-harm in adolescents in the UK have been based on the cases that reach hospital.
"We have found that the true extent of self-harm in England is significantly wider than that."
Professor Keith Hawton from the Centre for Suicide Research at the University of Oxford, who directed the project, said: "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 pr
Contact: Andrew McLaughlin
University of Bath