Self-harming behavior in relation to exposure to inter-personal violence among youth and young adults in Colombia

Int J Inj Contr Saf Promot. 2022 Mar;29(1):76-85. doi: 10.1080/17457300.2021.2001830. Epub 2021 Nov 14.


The effects of violence exposure on the risk of self-harming behaviors of youth in low- and middle-income countries is not well-understood. Using household survey data from one nationally representative sample and one sample from conflict-affected areas, we examined violence exposure and self-harm among Colombian youth aged 13-24. Survey-weighted prevalence ratios comparing self-harming behaviors by exposure to violence were estimated with Poisson log-linear models, controlling for age, sex, education and food insecurity. Compared to unexposed youth, those exposed to violence in both home and community settings were 7.97 (95% confidence interval [CI]:2.72-23.36) times more likely in the conflict-affected sample, and 21.05 (95% CI: 8.80-50.34) times more likely in the national sample to report having attempted suicide. Among Colombian youth, exposure to violence as either witness or victim was associated with greater prevalence of self-harming behaviors. Youth suicide prevention programs can address exposures to violence as a risk factor for self-harm.

Keywords: Suicide; adolescent mental health; interpersonal violence; self-harm.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Colombia / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Injurious Behavior* / epidemiology
  • Violence*
  • Young Adult