Prevalence of onychophagia and its relation to stress and quality of life

Acta Dermatovenerol Alp Pannonica Adriat. 2021 Mar;30(1):15-19.


Introduction: Onychophagia is defined as putting one's fingers into the mouth and biting the nails. We sought to evaluate the prevalence of onychophagia in university and high school students and its relation to sociodemographic factors, perceived stress, and quality of life.

Methods: A total of 3,475 students were included in the study. A questionnaire including sociodemographic characteristics, items about onychophagia, the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and the European Health Impact Scale were used.

Results: The prevalence of onychophagia among university students was 17.6%, and among high school students it was 29.2%. In university students with onychophagia, the median score on the PSS was higher than the median score of students without onychophagia. In high school students, the median score on the PSS was 28.2 for students without onychophagia and 28.0 for students with onychophagia; the difference was not significant. The median scores on the quality of life scale for both university and high school students with onychophagia were lower than the mean score of students without onychophagia.

Conclusions: Onychophagia is a common problem in the general population with a multidimensional etiology. It has dermatological, dental, and psychiatric consequences and comorbidities, and so a multidisciplinary approach is necessary for the prevention and treatment of onychophagia.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Nail Biting*
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities