Unemployed young people are more likely to self-harm
posted on: Jul 4, 2007
Young people who are out of work are more likely to self harm than those in work or full time education. Unemployment is a stronger predictor of self-harm among young people than parental social class or gender, according to a study published in the July issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.
The survey of 1258 18 - 20-year-olds investigated 3 well-established predictors of self-harm: gender, parental social class and current employment status. It also examined how these factors relate to reasons both for starting and stopping self-harm, and the use of social supports.
Overall, the researchers found a 7.1% lifetime prevalence of self-harm, with the majority self-harming in the past only. 1.6% were currently self-harming.
Cutting, scoring or scratching were the most common methods of self-harm, followed by taking dangerous tablets. Young women were more likely to cut themselves or take tablets, whereas young men were more likely to use violent methods.
There was a suggestion that young women were more likely to self-harm than young men during their lifetime (8.4% v. 5.8%). They were also more likely to start self-harming at an earlier age than boys (average age 15 v. 16.4).
Parental social class did not predict self-harm, but whether or not the young person was in work had a big impact. Young people who were unemployed were three times more likely to have self-harmed at some point in their lives and six to seven times more likely to be self-harming currently, compared with those in work or in full-time education.
The main motive behind most young people’s self-harm was to relieve negative emotions. Relief of anger was the most commonly reported reason for self-harming, followed by wanting to forget about something, relief of anxiety and desire to kill themselves.
Young people out of work were most likely to want to kill themselves, and did not consider specialist mental health services helpful in stopping them self-harming.
Those who self-harmed in full-time education most often did so only for a brief time, mainly to reduce anxiety probably related to academic pressures.
“The temporary nature of self-harm in young people in employment or education suggests a better clinical outcome for this group, despite their reluctance to seek help. Developing personal coping skills could be the best way for these young people to better deal with the pressures they are under,” said Robert Young from the MRC Social and Public Health Unit, lead author of the study,
“However young people who are unemployed or sick are a cause for greater concern. They are more likely to be engaging in persistent self-harm, and to be actively trying to kill themselves,” he added.
45% of the young people who were self-harming in this study were known to their GP. This rate is considerably higher than in other countries for which data is available and suggests GPs might be a means of targeting interventions.
“More effective interventions for unemployed young people who are self-harming are urgently required. This will require training and additional support for GPs, if they are being asked to help support this vulnerable group” said lead-researcher Young
For abstract go to:- click here