Self-Harm Frequency Reduces From Adolescence to Adulthood

Adolescent depression and anxiety symptoms tied to incident self-harm in young adulthood

THURSDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The frequency of self-harm reduces substantially from middle to late adolescence to young adulthood, according to a study published online Nov. 17 in The Lancet.

Paul Moran, M.D., from King's College London, and colleagues described the course of self-harm from middle adolescence to young adulthood. A total of 1,943 adolescents were recruited between August 1992 and January 2008. Data regarding self-harm were obtained through questionnaires and telephonic interviews conducted at seven waves of follow-up, starting and ending at a mean age of 15.9 and 29.0 years, respectively. Data from waves three to six were summarized for cannabis use, cigarette smoking, high-risk alcohol use, depression, anxiety, antisocial behaviour, and parental separation or divorce.

The investigators found that 8 percent of 1,802 respondents in the adolescent phase reported self-harm, with more girls reporting self-harm than boys (10 versus 6 percent; risk ratio, 1.6). There was a substantial reduction in the frequency of self-harm during late adolescence. Of the participants who reported self-harm during adolescence, 122 reported no further self-harm in young adulthood. There was stronger continuity in girls than boys (13 of 888 versus one of 764). Incident self-harm during adolescence independently correlated with symptoms of depression and anxiety, antisocial behaviour, high-risk alcohol use, cannabis use, and cigarette smoking (hazard ratios, 3.7, 1.9, 2.1, 2.4, and 1.8, respectively). Symptoms of depression and anxiety in adolescence showed a clear association with incident self-harm during adulthood.

"A substantial reduction in the frequency of self-harm occurred during late adolescence and continued into young adulthood," the authors write.

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