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Teen Self-Harming Linked to Mental Illness in Adulthood

Update Date: Oct 22, 2014 11:32 AM EDT

Self-harming teens are more likely to develop mental health and addiction problems in adulthood, according to a new study.

After looking at data from 4,799 adolescents who participated in the children of the 90s study, researchers were able to see the outcomes of teenage self-harm. Participants were followed for at least five years.

The findings revealed that teens who engaged in self-harming behavior were significantly more likely to develop mental health problems like depression and anxiety compared to those who did not. Researchers said the findings were also significant for those who didn't have suicidal intent.

The study revealed that teens who self-harmed were more likely to intentionally hurt themselves and be addicted to illegal drugs, tobacco or alcohol in adulthood. The findings also revealed that teens who self-harmed without suicidal intent were more likely to score lower on GCSE and A-level tests. They were also less likely to achieve higher education, training or employment three years later.

"We've shown for the first time that adolescents who self-harm are more vulnerable to a range of adverse conditions in early adulthood. While we cannot say that self-harm directly causes such problems, it's certainly a sign that all is not well and professionals need to be aware of such behavior and identify it early," lead researcher Dr. Becky Mars of Bristol University's School of Social and Community Medicine, said in a news release.

"There is widespread lack of understanding amongst health and teaching professionals about those who self-harm without intending to take their lives. It should not be dismissed or viewed as trivial, as it could be a warning sign for suicidal behavior or other problems later in life. These new findings highlight the importance of self-harm and the need for better understanding among professionals likely to come across youngsters who self-harm," she concluded.

The findings were published in the journal British Medical Journal

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