Skip to main content

European research study reveals true extent of self-harm among teenagers

· Six in ten 'self-harmers' mention suicidal wishes

· Study shows that self-cutting is not confined to young girls, but is the most common form of self-harm amongst young boys too

A study by a collaboration of academics across Europe, including Dr. Nicola Madge, Reader in Child Psychology at Brunel University's Centre for Interdisciplinary Child and Youth Focused Research, now reveals the extent to which deliberate self-harm is rife amongst teenagers in seven different countries[1].

The CASE (Child and Adolescent Self-harm in Europe) Study found that 3 in ten girls and 1 in ten boys have either self-harmed or considered doing so in the past year. Of these, 25 per cent had not confided in someone else about the incident and 12.4 per cent had not attended hospital as a result, suggesting that existing statistics about self-harm could be an underestimate.

Disturbingly, the research also found that more than half of self-harmers (59 per cent) mentioned that they 'wanted to die'. Other findings include:

· One in five incidences occur under the influence of alcohol (and one in eight under the influence of illegal drugs)

· Over all, self-cutting is the most common method of self-harm amongst both males and females

· Hungary is the only country studied in which overdosing is the dominant method

· Boys are more likely than girls to use methods that may have more serious outcomes such as self-battery, jumping and hanging.

Commenting on the research, Dr. Madge explains: “This research shows that self-harm is an international, widespread yet often hidden problem, particularly among young girls. What's needed now is more research into the factors that prevent self-harm thoughts leading to action, and the distinctions between those who harm themselves with and without suicidal intent. Identifying young people suffering from emotional and mental health difficulties, and providing them with appropriate care and support, is also essential. “

Note to Editors

Deliberate self-harm among young people is an important focus of policy and practice internationally. Nonetheless, there is little reliable comparative international information on its extent or characteristics. CASE is a seven-country comparative community study of deliberate self-harm among young people. Over 30,000 mainly 15- and 16-year-olds completed anonymous questionnaires at school in Australia, Belgium, England, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands and Norway. Study criteria were developed to identify episodes of self-harm; the prevalence of self-harm acts and thoughts, methods used, repetition, reasons given, premeditation, setting for the act, associations with alcohol and drugs, hospitalisation, and whether other people knew, were examined.

Nicola Madge, Anthea Hewitt, Keith Hawton, Erik Jan de Wilde, Paul Corcoran, Sandor Fekete, Kees van Heeringen, Diego De Leo and Mette Ystgaard (2008) Deliberate self-harm within an international community sample of young people: comparative findings from the child & Adolescent Self-harm in Europe (CASE) Study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Volume 49, Number 6, pages 667-677

Contact details

For further information, please contact Katy Askew at the Racepoint Group

Tel: 020 8752 3207


[1] The study was conducted amongst 30,000 15 and 16 year old children (male and female) from Australia, Belgium, England, Hungary, Ireland, The Netherlands and Norway.