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Mental health

Some of the most common mental disorders experienced by young people include anxiety disorders, mood disorders, behavioural disorders and eating disorders.  Mental health problems have important implications for all aspects of young people’s lives.

Among boys the likelihood of a disorder is highest at age 11-16.  Among girls, it is 17-19


On average, estimates suggest around 1 in 6 young people will have self-harmed by age 18Self-harm (usually deliberate cutting or scratching, but also including intentional overdose, often coded as ‘self-poisoning’) is not a mental health disorder but it is often a symptom of other conditions. The average age of starting to self-harm is around 13 years (Gillies et al, 2018). However, self-harm is a very private behaviour and a very sensitive topic, which means that there is a shortage of reliable information about young people who do not make use of accident and emergency or other services.

Estimates of rates of self-harm in the community vary but range from around 1 in 4 to 1 in 10. In their international meta-analysis, Gillies et al (2018) concluded that prevalence by age 18 was approximately 1 in 6.

In face-to-face interviews with 16-24 year olds, 25.7% of young women and 9.7% of young men reported self-harmingThe data suggest that girls are more likely to self-harm than boys (Chart 6.12). In the HBSC rates were three times as high for girls (32% of girls compared with 11% of boys). The majority of those self-harming said they were doing so once a month or more. One in four (25.7%) of the young women aged 16-24 in the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey reported that they had self-harmed, compared to one in ten (9.7%) of the young men. In this age group self-harm was predominantly self-cutting (McManus et al, 2016).

Young women are more likely to report self-harming in the last year than young men

A minority of people who are self-harming will end up in hospital, but these cases provide important information about this behaviour. Chart 6.13 shows that admissions where self-harm was the primary reason have increased over recent years, particularly for girls aged 13-17.

Hospital admissions for self-harm have increased,  particularly for girls aged 13-17

All data correct as of 1st November 2021