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Study: Sharp Rise in Self-Harm Among Teen Girls

"University of Manchester researchers have found that reports of self-harm in girls aged between 13 and 16 rose by 68% between 2011 and 2014. Overall, girls had much higher rates than boys." Image credit: Erica Woodson

A study published in the British Medical Journal is reporting a steep increase in self-harm behavior among teenage girls.

Self-harm - intentional self-poisoning or self-injury - in children and adolescents is a major public health issue in countries across the world. Experts acknowledge self-harm as the biggest risk factor for subsequent suicide.

The study analyzed data from 16,912 patients, ages 10-19, from 674 general practices, who had engaged in self-harm behaviors from 2010-2014.

For girls, the rate of self-harm was 37.4 per 10,000, much higher than 12.3 per 10,000 in boys. It rose by 68% in girls aged 13 to 16 from 45.9 per 10,000 in 2011 to 77.0 per 10,000 in 2014.

Also examined in the study was the link between self-harm and suicide, which has risen to the second most common cause of death in the under-25 age group worldwide.

Children and teenagers who self-harmed were nine times more likely to die unnaturally than unaffected young people with an especially marked increased risk of suicide and acute alcohol/drug poisoning death.

The research, funded by The National Institute for Health Research, indicated a particular area of concern surrounding children from lower-income areas:

Referrals to specialist mental health services within 12 months of self-harming were 23% less likely for young patients registered in practices in the most deprived areas, even though the rates of self-harm were higher in these areas.

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