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GPs report increased rates of self harm among teenage girls

There has been a sharp rise in instances of self harm among teenage girls treated in GP practices, researchers have noted.

Rates of self harm rose by 68% in girls aged 13 to 16, from 45.9 per 10,000 in 2011 to 77.0 per 10,000 in 2014, according to a study published today in the BMJ.

And, among children and teenagers aged 10-19,  the rate of self-harm recorded in general practice was higher in girls (37.4 per 10,000) compared with boys (12.3 per 10,000).

The researchers said this may be due to mental health problems common among females at this age and onset of puberty/sexual activity.

But they also noted that young people today may live in 'more stressful' times due to the 'extreme connectedness' that comes with technological advances.

The University of Manchester study, which was based on data for 16,912 patients aged between 10-19 years from 674 GP practices who harmed themselves during 2001 to 2014, concluded that 'this marked apparent increase prompts the urgent need to identify the causes of this phenomenon'.

It further raised concern that young people living in deprived areas were 23% less likely to be referred to specialist mental health services within 12 months, despite the rates of self harm being higher in those areas.

With young people who self harm nine times more likely to die unnaturally, especially by suicide and acute alcohol/drug poisoning death, the researchers said it was important to ensure they receive help at an early stage.

They said: 'This emphasises the opportunity for earlier intervention in primary care to reduce suicide risk.'

Readers' comments (2)

  • It seems a little simplistic to blame the rise on "more stressful lives". GPs routinely enquire into DSHarm these days, we rarely did in the past. We have been more successful as a society in encouraging patients to present with these previously hidden problems, and the stigmata around mental health have gradually been removed. It could be this is very encouraging news.

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  • It could also be the scourge of social media

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