One in 12 adolescents intentionally harms themselves, but the behavior persists into young adulthood in only 10% cases, according to the findings of a large, population-based, longitudinal study.
Of 1,802 adolescents aged 14-19 years, 149 (8.3%) admitted to self-harm, with more girls (10%) than boys (6.3%) reporting such behavior.
The behavior resolved without intervention in 90% of cases, however, with just 10% of teenagers who admitted to self-harm during adolescence continuing the behavior into their early adulthood.
"We think the findings offer some reassurance to those working with young people, to family members, parents and teachers," said study author Dr. Paul Moran at a press conference on Nov. 16.
Self-harm was broadly categorized into five types: cutting or burning, self-poisoning, deliberate nonrecreational risk-taking, self-battery, and other self-harming behaviors such as self-drowning, hanging, intentional electrocution, and suffocation.
Cutting and burning were the most common types of self-harm reported by 4.6% of adolescents and by 1.2% of young adults.
Dr. Moran noted that self-harm is a clearly a sign of significant emotional difficulties, with depression and anxiety increasing the risk of self-harm almost fourfold (hazard ratio, 3.7). High-risk alcohol use (HR, 2.1) and cannabis misuse (HR, 2.4) doubled the risk of self-harming behavior, with antisocial behavior (HR, 1.9) and smoking cigarettes (HR, 1.8) also influencing the risk of self-harm.