Page last updated at 07:00 GMT, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 08:00 UK

Study reveals teen self-harm rate

By Mona McAlinden
BBC Scotland news website

Girl with head in hands

A study has suggested that up to 14% of 15 and 16-year-olds across central Scotland have self-harmed.

Stirling University experts questioned 2,000 teenagers in 2006/07. A follow-up study of 500 of the youths six months later found that 6% had self-harmed.

The experts said self-harming was more prevalent than official figures suggested because less than a quarter of those affected had gone to hospital.

The findings will be presented at a conference on suicide in Glasgow.

The study found that teenagers who reported having concerns about their sexual orientation, a history of sexual abuse or those who knew a family member who had self-harmed were five times more likely to hurt themselves.

High levels of anxiety and low self-esteem were also found to be key factors.

Professor Rory O'Connor, from Stirling University's Suicidal Behaviour Research Group, which carried out the research, said any of those factors made young people five-times more likely to self-harm.

Prof O'Connor
Prof O'Connor said 2007's suicide rate should not be taken out of context
Professor O'Connor is co-president of the four-day European Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour, which starts on Wednesday at a Glasgow hotel.

More than 500 experts will attend the largest conference on suicide ever hosted in the UK.

Edinburgh University's Professor Stephen Platt, also a co-president of the event, said the younger a person was, the more likely they were to self-harm.

"This latest research confirms we have a serious problem of self-harm in the UK, particularly among women," he said.

He added that the suicide risk was 60 to 100 times higher among those who had hurt themselves.

2003: 794
2004: 835
2005: 763
2006: 765
2007: 838
The latest suicide statistics were recently published by the Registrar General for Scotland.

The total number of suicides and probable suicides last year was 838, a rise of 73 on 2006.

However, Professor O'Connor said the figures should not be taken out of context.

"What we normally do is look at three-year rolling averages," he said.

"When we compare the suicide rates between 2000 and 2002, with those in 2005 and 2007, there is an overall decrease.

"Nobody ever likes to see an increase obviously, but we cannot focus on one year because it may be a blip rather than a trend."

He said the Scottish Government's suicide prevention body, Choose Life, was halfway through a 10-year programme and that judgements should not be made until that was completed.

Drink and drugs 'key' to suicide
15 Jun 08 |  Scotland
Study finds drop in suicide rate
29 Feb 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Meeting of anti-suicide experts
22 Jan 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Male suicide figures on increase
07 Mar 07 |  Scotland
Scots suicide rate highest in UK
30 Aug 06 |  Scotland


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