Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Factors associated with deliberate self-harm among Irish adolescents

  • E. M. McMahon (a1) (a2), U. Reulbach (a1) (a2), P. Corcoran (a1), H. S. Keeley (a3), I. J. Perry (a2) and E. Arensman (a1)...

Deliberate self-harm (DSH) is a major public health problem, with young people most at risk. Lifetime prevalence of DSH in Irish adolescents is between 8% and 12%, and it is three times more prevalent among girls than boys. The aim of the study was to identify the psychological, life-style and life event factors associated with self-harm in Irish adolescents.


A cross-sectional study was conducted, with 3881 adolescents in 39 schools completing an anonymous questionnaire as part of the Child and Adolescent Self-harm in Europe (CASE) study. There was an equal gender balance and 53.1% of students were 16 years old. Information was obtained on history of self-harm life events, and demographic, psychological and life-style factors.


Based on multivariate analyses, important factors associated with DSH among both genders were drug use and knowing a friend who had engaged in self-harm. Among girls, poor self-esteem, forced sexual activity, self-harm of a family member, fights with parents and problems with friendships also remained in the final model. For boys, experiencing bullying, problems with schoolwork, impulsivity and anxiety remained.


Distinct profiles of boys and girls who engage in self-harm were identified. Associations between DSH and some life-style and life event factors suggest that mental health factors are not the sole indicators of risk of self-harm. The importance of school-related risk factors underlines the need to develop gender-specific initiatives in schools to reduce the prevalence of self-harm.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: E. Arensman, Ph.D., National Suicide Research Foundation, 1 Perrott Avenue, College Road, Cork, Republic of Ireland. (Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

A Marusic , S Roskar , RH Hughes (2004). Familial study of suicidal behavior among adolescents in Slovenia. Crisis 25, 7477.

F Lynch , C Mills , I Daly , C Fitzpatrick (2006). Challenging times: prevalence of psychiatric disorders and suicidal behaviours in Irish adolescents. Journal of Adolescence 29, 555573.

RC O'Connor , S Rasmussen , J Miles , K Hawton (2009 b). Self-harm in adolescents: self-report survey in schools in Scotland. British Journal of Psychiatry 194, 6872.

M O'Sullivan , M Fitzgerald (1998). Suicidal ideation and acts of self-harm among Dublin school children. Journal of Adolescence 21, 427433.

I Rossow , M Ystgaard , K Hawton , N Madge , K van Heeringen , E de Wilde , D DeLeo , S Fekete , C Morey (2007). Cross-national comparisons of the association between alcohol consumption and deliberate self-harm in adolescents. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 37, 605615.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 16
Total number of PDF views: 75 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 317 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.