One in four teenagers report self-harm in last 12 months, study reveals

Almost one in four teenagers say they have self-harmed in the past year, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by University College London, suggests that the mental health of young people has worsened over the past 10 years despite repeated Government intervention.

To carry out the study, the authors used data collected from participants of the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) to analyse how the prevalence of psychological distress, self-harm and attempted suicide is linked with socio-demographic characteristics, such as sex, ethnicity, sexuality and socioeconomic position.

It was found that some 24 per cent of teenagers aged 17 had attempted self-harm in the past 12 months, compared to just 15 per cent of teenagers aged 14.

The study also discovered that 16 per cent of young people at age 17 have suffered from “serious psychological distress”, while an alarming seven per cent have attempted suicide.

The researchers found “large differences” in self-harm rates when breaking down the figures by characteristic. For example, females were much more likely to self-harm and suffer depression compared to males, while white and mixed ethnicity young people had worse mental health compared to Asian, black and those of other ethnicities. Inequalities were also found among young people who identified as LGB+.

Commenting on the research, co-author Dr Praveetha Patalay said: “Our study highlights large inequality in these adverse mental health outcomes at age 17, with women and sexual minorities being particularly vulnerable, potentially reflecting the greater disparity in the pressures they face, and highlighting the need for support that is sensitive to the challenges experienced by them during adolescence.”

She added: “There is definitely a need to provide more, better and earlier support for young people to prevent their mental health difficulties from getting so severe, but equally we really need to think about why young people today are struggling so much.”

Click here to access the study.

The latest figures suggest that around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, with the most common illnesses being anxiety and depression.

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