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About Half of Teens Who Self-Harm Were Frequently Bullied

Self-harm more likely in those with mental health problems or the physically abused

FRIDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- About half of young adolescents who have self-harmed were frequently bullied, and self-harm among the bullied is more likely in those with mental health problems, a family history of suicide, or a history of being physically abused by an adult, according to a study published online April 26 in BMJ.

Helen L. Fisher, Ph.D., from King's College London, and colleagues analyzed data on bullying and self-harm from 1,116 pairs of twins born in 1994 to 1995 in the United Kingdom. The children were evaluated at ages 5, 7, 10, and 12 years.

Of the 2,141 children for whom data were available, the researchers found that at 12 years of age, 2.9 percent had self-harmed. Of these, 56 percent had been frequently bullied. Frequent bullying was associated with higher rates of self-harm (adjusted relative risks, 1.92 for bullying reported by mother and 2.44 for bullying reported by the child). The bullied twin was more likely to self-harm than their non-bullied twin. Of the bullied children, those who self-harmed were more likely to have a family history of suicide, mental health problems, and to have experienced maltreatment by an adult.

"Frequent victimization by peers increased the risk of self-harm independently of a range of potential confounders," Fisher and colleagues conclude. "Prevention of non-suicidal self-injury in young adolescents should focus on helping bullied children to cope more appropriately with their distress."

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