Deliberate self-harm has become more prevalent in recent years among adolescents, Dr. Jukka Hintikka, of Kuopio University Hospital, Finland, and colleagues write.

In the study, the researchers examined community-dwelling adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 years to find the prevalence of mental disorders and associated factors. The investigators drew a sample of 80 youngsters who reported current self-cutting from a large sample of 4205 community youngsters. Forty four out of eighty subjects gave consent for further assessment. Patients had age- and gender-matched with control group to each study subject.

Overall, 79% of the 41 self-cutting females had mental disorders, compared to 21% of controls (p < 0.001). Psychiatric comorbidity (i.e., at least two psychiatric diagnoses) was observed in 42% of female self-cutters and 7% of controls (p < 0.001).

There was no mental disorder in the three self-cutting males or their controls.

We found that major depressive disorder (63% versus 5%), anxiety disorders (37% versus 12%) and eating disorders (15% versus 0%) were much more common in a non-clinical sample of self-cutting girls than among controls, Dr. Hintikka elaborated in an interview with Reuters Health. In the final multivariate model, the presence of major depressive disorder, signs of alcohol misuse, and internalizing behavior strongly associated with self-cutting in community-living girls.

Summing up, Dr. Hintikka said, Whenever self-cutting is identified, it should lead to psychiatric assessment with precise diagnostics and active treatment, if needed.