Teenage self-harm leads to mental problems in adulthood

Those who inflict harm upon themselves as teenagers face an increased risk of developing mental health and substance misuse problems as adults, a research has revealed.

IANS| Updated: Oct 22, 2014, 15:09 PM IST

London: Those who inflict harm upon themselves as teenagers face an increased risk of developing mental health and substance misuse problems as adults, a research has revealed.

Researchers at the University of Bristol, the University of Oxford and the University College London in Britain collected data from 4,799 adolescents as part of 'Children of the 90s' - one of the world's largest population studies - to examine the outcomes of self-harm for the first time.

The findings revealed that almost a fifth (19 percent) of 16-year-olds, who took part in the study had a history of self-harm and most had not sought help from health professionals.

"We have shown for the first time that adolescents who self-harm are more vulnerable to a range of adverse conditions in early adulthood. It is certainly a sign that all is not well and professionals need to be aware of such behaviour and identify it early," said Becky Mars, who led the research at Bristol University's School of Social and Community Medicine.

Examining their progress over the following five years showed that even those who self-harmed without suicidal intent had an increased risk of developing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, compared with adolescents who had not self-harmed.

They were also more likely to self-harm in the future and to have substance misuse problems, such as using illegal drugs, smoking and drinking too much.

"Those who self-harmed with suicidal intent were also more at risk of poor school results and were less likely to be in further education, training or employment three years later," Mars added.

Although risks were generally stronger in those who had self-harmed with suicidal intent, outcomes were also poor amongst those who had self-harmed without suicidal intent.

The research paper was published in the journal BMJ.