Youthful Goths May Be More Likely to Harm Themselves

Study strongly associates Goth subculture with prevalence of self-harm and attempted suicide

MONDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- Adolescents who belong to the Goth subculture may be at high risk of self-harm -- including cutting, scratching or scoring -- according to a study published April 13 by BMJ Online First.

Robert Young, a research associate at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and colleagues surveyed 1,258 11-year-olds during their final year of primary school and again at ages 13, 15 and 19. They identified 15 different youth subcultures, mostly based on musical tastes.

The researchers found that belonging to the Goth subculture was strongly associated with a lifetime prevalence of self-harm (53 percent) and attempted suicide (47 percent). Membership in other subcultures, such as Garage, Punk and Heavy Metal, was also associated with a higher-than-average prevalence of self-harm, but identification with the Goth subculture was the only one that significantly predicted self-harm after adjusting for other factors. The weakest association was observed in the Indie and Pop subcultures.

"Self-harm could be a normative component of Goth subculture including emulation of subcultural icons or peers who self-harm," the authors conclude. "Alternatively, it could be explained by selection, with young people with a particular propensity to self-harm being attracted to the subculture. Although our study is based on small numbers, our data suggest that both processes are involved, with selection mechanisms possibly being more likely."

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Rick Ansorge

Rick Ansorge

Updated on April 17, 2006

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