Who are the kids who self-harm? An Australian self-report school survey

Med J Aust. 2004 Aug 2;181(3):140-4. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2004.tb06204.x.


Objective: To determine the prevalence and types of deliberate self-harm (DSH) in adolescents, and associated factors.

Design: A cross-sectional questionnaire study.

Participants and setting: 3757 of 4097 Year 10 and Year 11 students (91.7%) from 14 high schools on the Gold Coast, Queensland, during September 2002.

Main outcome measures: DSH behaviour, including descriptions of the last act, psychological symptoms, recent stressors, coping styles, help-seeking behaviour, lifestyle choices, and self-prescribing of medications.

Results: 233 students (6.2%) met the criteria for DSH in the previous 12 months, with DSH more prevalent in females than males (OR, 7.5; 95% CI, 5.1-10.9). The main methods were self-cutting (138 respondents; 59.2%) and overdosing with medication (69 respondents; 29.6%). Factors associated with DSH included similar behaviours in friends or family, coping by self-blame, and self-prescribing of medications. Most self-harmers did not seek help before or after their most recent action, with those who did primarily consulting friends.

Conclusions: DSH is common in Australian youth, especially in females. Preventive programs should encourage young people to consult health professionals in stressful situations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Queensland / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology*
  • Sex Distribution