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Self Harm High Among Goth Youths

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2006-04-14 09:02

Suicide Attempt

Rates of self harm and attempted suicide are high within Goth youth subculture, finds a study published on bmj.com today.

Deliberate self harm is common among young people, with rates of 7-14% in the UK. It is particularly widespread in certain populations and may be linked to depression, attempted suicide, and various psychiatric disorders in later life. Contemporary Goth youth subculture has been linked with self harm, but there is little evidence to support this.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow surveyed 1,258 young people during their final year of primary school (age 11) and again at ages 13, 15, and 19. They were asked about self harm and identification with a variety of youth subcultures, including Goth.

They found that belonging to the Goth subculture was strongly associated with a lifetime prevalence of self harm (53%) and attempted suicide (47%).

Even after adjusting for factors such as social class, parental separation, smoking, alcohol use, or previous depression, Goth identification remained the single strongest predictor of either self harm or suicide attempt.

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To test how specific this identification effect was to Goth, they analysed rates of self harm among 14 other common youth subcultures. Although some other subcultures were also associated with self harm (Punk and Mosher), the association was strongest for Goth.

Mr Robert Young, lead researcher on the study, said: "Although only fairly small numbers of young people identify as belonging to the Goth subculture, rates of self-harm and attempted suicide are very high among this group.

One common suggestion is they may be copying subcultural icons or peers. But since our study found that more reported self-harm before, rather than after, becoming a Goth, this suggests that young people with a tendency to self-harm are attracted to the Goth subculture.

Rather than posing a risk, it's also possible that by belonging to this subculture young people are gaining valuable social and emotional support from their peers. However, the study was based on small numbers and replication is needed to confirm our results."

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