The impact of social contagion on non-suicidal self-injury: a review of the literature

Arch Suicide Res. 2013;17(1):1-19. doi: 10.1080/13811118.2013.748404.


In this review, we explore social contagion as an understudied risk factor for non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) among adolescents and young adults, populations with a high prevalence of NSSI. We review empirical studies reporting data on prevalence and risk factors that, through social contagion, may influence the transmission of NSSI. Findings in this literature are consistent with social modeling/learning of NSSI increasing risk of initial engagement in NSSI among individuals with certain individual and/or psychiatric characteristics. Preliminary research suggests iatrogenic effects of social contagion of NSSI through primary prevention are not likely. Thus, social contagion factors may warrant considerable empirical attention. Intervention efforts may be enhanced, and social contagion reduced, by implementation of psychoeducation and awareness about NSSI in schools, colleges, and treatment programs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Health Education*
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Mass Media
  • Peer Group*
  • Prevalence
  • Psychological Theory
  • Reinforcement, Social
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / prevention & control*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Identification
  • Vulnerable Populations